Hooray Beer! New Jersey Passes Legislation That Makes (Most) People Happy
New Jersey’s craft beer drinkers are toasting state lawmakers this week for passing legislation that expands the ability of brewery and brewpub owners to offer samples and sell their product. Among the more notable components for consumers, brewpub owners can now open ten locations across the state instead of just two; they can sell their beer to outside restaurants, bars and retailers; and they can participate in promotional and charity sampling events. As for production brewers, they can now sell up to half a keg from the brewhouse for off-premise consumption, as well as set up a tasting room to sell beer to visitors who take tours and sample four-ounce pours.
A few provisions, like the one to allow production brewers to open restaurants (think Victory and Stoudts), were removed from the bills because of strong opposition from restaurateurs, distributors and retailers. The new law, which was drafted by the Garden State Craft Brewers Association and modeled after new state wine regulations, is considered the first advance to the system since craft breweries and brewpubs were legalized in Jersey in 1994. Governor Chris Christie, who officially supported the creation of New Jersey Craft Beer Week last year, is expected to sign it.
New Jersey ranks 34th in national beer production, compared to 2nd for Pennsylvania, 7th for New York and 19th for Delaware. Since the mid-1990’s, the state’s independent brewing industry has added more than 700 jobs to the economy, and in the past year, the number of micro- and nano-breweries has increased to 16 from fewer than a dozen, and more are on the way.