Amid taxes and health care, the Idaho Legislature is taking up brewing law this session.
Specifically, lawmakers have been asked to remove old restrictions on brewers owning a bar or opening another brewery. The goal is to catch the state up with the modern craft brewing industry, according to this Associated Press report:
BOISE (AP) — A Sandpoint legislator has introduced a bill that would lift restrictions on Idaho brewers building a second brewery or owning a bar.
"It's certainly not our intent to diminish the safeguards that are in place to lessen overindulgence in alcoholic beverages, but it does seem that the industry has evolved," Republican Sen. Shawn Keough told the Idaho Business Review (http://bit.ly/wkFuRV). "Microbreweries are a newer producer, and we ought to modernize and update our laws and promote economic growth and job opportunities."
Idaho has more than 20 breweries, and three more are set to open in 2012.
Fred Colby owns Laughing Dog Brewery in Ponderay, the second-largest microbrewery in the state. He had to renounce his stake in the Selkirk Abbey Brewery in Post Falls because his partners couldn't obtain a state permit due to Colby's co-ownership.
"Fred's the reason the thing works," said Jeff Whitman, who along with Rob Wallace was partnering with Colby to start a brewery that will specialize in Belgian-style beers.
Whitman said Selkirk Abbey would produce 2,500 barrels of beer a year, the equivalent of several hundred thousand bottles of beer.
"The plan is to primarily bottle, which is why we need Fred so desperately," Whitman said. "He comes with the distribution knowledge."
Colby said at least one other brewer has run into the same problem in trying to start another brewery.
He said the Idaho Beer and Wine Distributors Association has some concerns about text in the legislation that redefines a brewery and could get tangled in other parts of state law.
"We have to come to a mutual agreement on how it's going to work for the both of us," Colby said.
Jeremy Pisca, a Boise lobbyist who represents beer and wine distributors, said he would like to work on some changes to the legislation.
Keough said she expects to propose amendments to the legislation.