Microbrews would be available at farmers’ markets under bill

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Indiana microbrewers are one step closer to selling their craft beer at local farmers’ markets after a bill passed a Senate committee Wednesday.

Senate Bill 16 will allow Indiana microbrewers to sell their beer at farmers’ markets.

Mark Webb, a lobbyist for the Brewers of Indiana Guild, said he believes the new bill will be a positive for the 78 microbreweries in the state. Webb said he sees Indiana’s microbrewing industry as a strong way to create jobs across the state.

“This bill allows these brewers to reach a greater audience and appeal. Breweries can participate in local community events,” Webb said. “But all of these events are done with a temporary permit and are limited to on-premise consumption only.”

The bill would change that for farmers’ markets. The companies would be allowed to sell their beer by the bottle, case, or growler – a 64-ounce jug – so customers could take it home.

But Webb said the growler supply may be limited because breweries do not want to fill more growlers than they can sell. Supporters said beer tasting will not be permitted due to the family-oriented nature of farmers markets.

A similar bill passed the Senate last year but wasn’t heard in the House. In an attempt to pass the bill this year, its author – Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City – added two new provisions.

The first provision dealt with a mistake made in the first draft of the bill. In the first draft, brewery-pubs, or breweries that also have a restaurant, were not allowed to have an artesian distillery permit in addition to the pub. The artesian distillery permit allows the company to produce spirits as well. The second provision states that a company’s entire brewing process must be completed in Indiana.

By selling their craft beer at local farmers markets, microbreweries – such as Fountain Square Brewery – will be able to sell beer to more people and expand their market. That would replace the informational booth the brewery is accustomed to.

William Webster, a part owner of Fountain Square Brewery, said he sees the bill as a marketing opportunity to expand his business, which has been open for 2-1/2 years.

“Participating in farmers markets allows us to improve our business while being a part of the whole artesian community and nature of the farmers market,” Webster said. Right now, “we are limited in our distribution range. People in northern Indiana want our beer, but can’t purchase it. This is a big opportunity.”

If passed, the bill will affect future microbreweries as well. According to Webb, there are approximately 12 to 15 breweries set to open in 2014.

SB 16 was passed unanimously by the Senate Public Policy Committee.

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