Farmer Brewers And A Few Reviews

Beer and wine could be coming to your local farmers market. A bill introduced this past February by Rep. Jared Nunes of Coventry-West Warwick would make it legal for beer and wine to be available for sale in farmers markets throughout the state. This would be a fantastic boon to nano-brewers and small-batch brewers who could use the economic boost; however, in politics more than anywhere else, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions.
Distributors in Rhode Island, the companies that sell beer and wine from the brewers/vintners to the retail stores, could find themselves cut out of a loop that they’ve sort of been guaranteed, by law, for decades. And retail stores could find themselves competing with small-scale farmers markets that don’t have to worry about as large of a cost for product as the alcohol producers.
These are but a few of the many issues the bill fails to address, and not even the beginning of the incredible can of worms that it opens up.
I’ve read the bill. After parsing through the legalese, that pseudo-language of wishy-washy non-specific politico-speak that forms the basis for our society (somehow), it seems there’s a great many issues this bill could open up.
Most of all, the vagueness of the bill is troubling. While there are limits on how much alcohol you can produce to qualify as a “farmer-brewer” for the sake of selling at the farmers market, and a process one needs to undergo to be classified as a “farmer-brewer,” the real issue at hand is that this bill would open a door for a very big, stompy foot. Bills and laws can be altered by completely unrelated bills and laws at later dates, with addendums and amendments that someone slipped in there in return for some political or, ahem, economic favor. Come on, people, this is Rhode Island after all. All it would take is one big enough company, for the sake of the example let’s call them, oh, “Mal Wart,” to use this bill as a lever to allow beer and wine sales in retail giants. Once that happens, we can pretty much kiss the local packy goodbye, as well as hundreds of jobs in a state where unemployment is already a problem. Also, let’s not forget that the distributors themselves will battle this bill’s very existence. It’s potentially a way for them to be undermined, and their whole business overtaken, since it makes zero overtures to them other than limiting the brewing capacity. It could open the door for brewers to sell directly to the market with no distributor whatsoever, since the bill specifically mentions that this would allow a “farmer-brewer” to sell to restaurants and retail stores in this manner.
While this bill has the potential to really grow the craft beer market, it would need some serious restrictions placed on it to avoid some serious pitfalls both in the immediate future and the far future. It would open up one form of small business, while trampling on some laws that protect others.
Would it be a good thing? Of course. It would allow a greater growth of craft beer and help nano-breweries build relationships with their communities. There’s already a law allowing this in Massachusetts; however, Rhode Island has a very different liquor industry, the nuances of which must be addressed before such a bill can go forward.
Right now, the bill sits in a sort of ‘development hell,’ to borrow Hollywood terminology. It easily could undergo a rewrite or two to address the glaring issues, and maybe with a little forethought, to head off potential future issues as well. This is the perfect time to talk to your state representative and see if he or she can iron out the wrinkles. I know, I know, getting involved in politics is like dabbling in prostitution, but remember that representatives are supposed to be the hos, not the pimps, in the parlance of our time. They certainly act that way around election time, anyway.
Beer Review Time!
Enough of this discussion of current events! It’s almost like I’m some sort of journalist or something. Bah! Let’s get to something more important – the fermented result of steeped malted barley flavored with hop flowers. Damn, still too technical. Let’s have beer!
Grey Sail Hazy Day – I like Grey Sail. They got moxie! The Flying Jenny is one of the nicest little pale ales, especially for a canned brew, and their Hazy Day does not disappoint either. Light and only slightly wheaty, this brew is easy drinking and pleasantly effervescent. I would say bubbly, but I wanted to class it up a bit. This brew looks at those light, citrusy summer ales and those cop-out shandies and says, “Ha!” Light, slightly sweet, yet subtly satisfying, I find myself drinking it down too fast to accurately analyze the entire brew. I don’t often reach for a wheat beer in the summertime, but when I do, I think I’ll be reaching for Hazy Day. Stay hazy, my friends.
Gritty’s 25 Years S.O.S. aka Special Oatmeal Stout – Gritty’s is well known for making some of the tastiest brews in New England, but even the best brewers occasionally misfire. And the Special Oatmeal Stout … is NOT one of those misfires. Some stouts tend to go overboard trying to maximize body by sacrificing subtlety and hoppiness. It’s a practice that takes no risks, and who can live a whole life taking no risks? That’s just boring! Gritty’s does things a little differently, but what else can we expect from the brewers that put out an ESB for their Christmas beer? They’re clearly not worried about sticking to trends. Oddly, the S.O.S. has a very nice roasted character and a slightly piney hop signature that really makes this brew pop. It’s a heavyweight, though, at 8.6% ABV, so definitely enjoy this one when you have a night off. Gritty McDuff says to enjoy responsibly.

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