Speaker Busch Declares War on Maryland Beer

Speaker Mike Busch has declared war on Maryland’s craft brewing industry.

His name is not the legislation, but Busch’s fingerprints are all over HB 1052, filed by Derek Davis, chair of the House Economic Matters Committee, and Talmadge Branch the chief sponsor of last year’s anti-craft brewing legislation HB 1283:

Branch and Davis’ new bill would preserve greater on-premise consumption limits for Guinness — or any brewery producing more than 1 million barrels a year — but revert limits on smaller breweries back to 500 barrels a year, down from the 2,000-barrel taproom limit approved for all Class 5 breweries last session. The measure would also hamper contract brewing, the practice of allowing beer startups to rent production machinery at larger breweries while they establish a foothold in the market.

The bill also reduces the size of samples breweries may serve in their taprooms.

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HB 1052 is the Maryland Democratic machine’s response to Comptroller Peter Franchot’s Reform on Tap legislation.  That legislation seeks to remove the artificial limits that on Maryland’s craft brewing industry that serve no purpose other than to protect the crony capitalist middlemen distributors like Neal Katcef of Katcef Brothers who, as we pointed out last month, just happens to be Busch’s campaign treasurer.

The introduction of this legislation is the Annapolis machine flexing its political muscle:

Davis, a Prince George’s Democrat who chairs the House’s Economic Matters committee, said he and Branch introduced the measure to address opposition to last year’s bill. 

“We heard the cries of the craft beer industry of how deleterious that piece of legislation was,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t get it right, so we were hoping to erase whatever we were doing wrong, whatever harm we had caused the industry, and we were going to put things back the way they were. Time and again, and we heard it repeatedly from the comptroller as well as the industry that 1283 was bad, that 1283 was having a negative impact, and we did not want to do that, so we were trying to undo what we did.”

Translation: The legislature is punishing brewers for complaining about getting screwed by screwing them even harder.

Franchot’s chief of staff summed it up best calling the bill “a middle finger to the craft beer industry.”

As the authors of this bill sit in a smoke-filled back room toasting their cronyism with the cheap mass-produced swill of a foreign conglomerate, Maryland entrepreneurs and homebrewers who want to join the craft beer industry, the brewers who will become the next Flying Dog or Heavy Seas. are thinking Virginia looks like a pretty good place to do business right now.

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