UPDATE – End Big Beer Cronyism: Regulation Hinders S.C. Craft Brewing Industry

Update: Today S.C. lawmakers passed a bill lifting the cap of brewpub production limits. Let’s see if Governor signs it into law. State senator Tom Davis issued this update on his Facebook page today:

As reported by Ben Swann, the local micro brewery business is booming across the Nation and “Big Beer” corporations don’t like it. Ben Swann reported how these beer lobbyists are using the government to eliminate their competition in Florida but it’s happening throughout the U.S., including South Carolina.

Regulation hinders the fledgling start-ups in South Carolina. Many are locating to North Carolina where the regulations are more lax. But S.C. micro breweries are appealing to the state government to lessen brewery regulations.

Currently there is a glimpse of hope for these breweries in the “Stone Bill, ” a bill designed to attract Stone Brewing Co., the 10th largest in the Nation.

The law would allow brewpubs to brew beer and serve it along with food from 2,000 barrels a year to 500,000 barrels a year.

According to the Greenville News, passing the bill would give Stone the ability to both produce a large amount of beer and open an expansive restaurant, billing the location as a tourist destination much like its home in Escondido, California.

So what’s the problem? Well, the South Carolina Brewers Association doesn’t like it.

“Amending brewpub laws would create another exception to the state’s beer regulations, opening the door for erosion of the three-tier system used in South Carolina,” said Brook Bristow, a lawyer who represents the South Carolina Brewers Association.

What is the three-tier system?

The three-tier system requires producers to sell their beer through wholesalers. Currently, brewery laws allow a brewery to make and distribute unlimited quantities but to serve only small amounts on site.

According to the Charleston Regional Business Journal, local breweries like Charleston based Coast Brewing Co. says the current law hurts their ability to attract visitors and make secondary income.

Coast Brewing Co’s owners David Merritt and Jaime Tenny say that changing this law could provide them additional income and spread the word about their label, they said. And eventually, if enough microbreweries follow suit, they contend it could create a major tourism boon for the area.

“If you want a vibrant beer business in South Carolina, they are going to have to change some laws,” Merritt said.