June 28 is the third anniversary of the momentous day when Governor Gina Raimondo signed House Bill 8100 Substitute B and Senate Bill 3053 Substitute A – which, as you certainly must know by now, allowed breweries to sell 288 ounces of beer for off-premise consumption (in any combo of growlers, bottles and cans) — a significant increase from the former 72-ounce limit that had been approved in 2013 – and sell 36 ounces in-house. The impact was immediate, with breweries expanding their hours, building taprooms and hiring more beer-makers and pourers. And the increased limits powered already-budding brewers to expand beyond their modest starter homes (hiya, Proclamation and Long Live Beerworks), expand capacity (yo, Tilted Barn) and give ambitious homebrewers the economic incentive to go pro.
It was a welcome and long overdue boost for the state’s burgeoning and now-booming craft beer industry – and a far cry from the mid-2000s, when Newport Storm (now Newport Craft Brewing), which was the state’s lone brewery, started its campaign to legalize growler sales. The modest proposal was met with firm resistance from retailers and wholesalers (and their lobbyists), who didn’t want to upend the decades-old three-tier distribution system. Reflecting on the 2013 72-ounces bill, a 401 brewer said, “It was a [long] fight to get the 72 ounces, and a big concern that we had to overcome was that if we were allowed that much, we’d start looking for more. It is frustrating that just about any other business can manufacture and sell their product, while alcohol producers need to do business with one hand tied behind our backs.”
And now, three years after the 288-ounce limit (the equivalent of a 24-count case of 12-ounce containers) became the norm, RI breweries are hoping to build their businesses with another boost – or elimination – of the sales limit. Thirty-seven states have no ceiling on beer sales; the Ocean State is at the bottom of the restriction list, sharing the 288-ounce sales-shackles with Alabama and South Carolina. Connecticut just left the 288 Club, upping its limit to 1,152 ounces – aka nine gallons, aka three 24-count cases of 16-ounce cans. There were bills proposing a small bump to 384 ounces – a case of 24 tallboys – and unlimited sales, but they didn’t gain traction due to the aforementioned firm resistance. So the drive for even better beer laws – and the resultant betterment of beer business and beerployment and beer tourism – is being readied for the 2020 legislative calendar. We’ll start drafting an update of the “Better Beer Laws” petition, which we launched on the Bottles & Cans blog in 2015, and rally the troops.
But in the glass-half-full department, the 401 beer scene has leaped and bounded and grown and diversified in the last three years. Let’s celebrate that progress with a bit of news from some of 401’s finest: Long Live Beerworks has partnered with Bootleg Biology, a Nashville-based yeast project, to design Thunderhorse!, a Kveik double IPA that will be released in celebration of Homebrew Con (at the Convention Center June 27-29; see our previous column for details). Armando DeDona tells us, “Bootleg gave us their Aurora Kveik yeast and we hopped it Long Live-style. We used generous amounts of Citra, Simcoe Cryohops and Topaz.” The first pouring will be on Homebrew Com Eve (Wednesday June 26) at Long Live’s fab new home (longlivebeerworks.com) … Shaidzon Beer Company launches Summer-For-Real on June 21 with the release of Longest Daze, a double IPA … Revival Brewing has opened its patio/beer garden as is celebrating with new and revived releases: Savage Gent, a New England IPA; Clever Girl, a Paloma-style sour; Star Child, a Pride month pilsner; and the already-entrenched HAMR Oceanic State Pale Ale … And Apponaug Brewing Company’s beer garden, on the beautiful Pawtuxet River, is now open, with seating for 50-plus folks (and their dogs), games (giant Jenga and corn hole) and summer-friendly beers, including Raw Materials (a Berliner Weisse with raspberry), Flywheel Wheat (with pineapple), Lonely At the Top (a Kolsch) and a rotating selection of IPAs. Hit the Rhody beer trail today!
For more beer news, check Lou’s blog, bottlescansclaphands.wordpress.com, or follow @BottlesCansRI.