If there are caps in the title then you know this must be serious. I think everyone is aware that beer is defined in the great state of Tennessee as 6.25% ABV. While this may have been dandy decades ago when the law was set, merely looking to our neighboring states we can see that ABV restrictions mean two things; our brewers are limited AND our choices are limited. Things have certainly gotten better in the last few years however making this change would have a significant impact on our local brewers as well as the number of other breweries who chose to send their product to our state.
Linus Hall – President of the TN Craft Brewers Guild and the brains behind Yazoo sent the following note out earlier today showing how YOU can get involved. Want our brewers to have more creative freedom? Want to see more outside breweries products in our state? Check out the information below.
Also note there is a rally on February 7th at Central Flats & Taps from 4-7pm. Be there!
This is Linus Hall, president of the TN Craft Brewers Guild. I’m writing to you today because you helped play a big part in reforming Tennessee’s wholesale beer taxes last year, and because we need your help again.
We knew when we formed our TN Craft Brewers Guild two years ago that there were two main legislative items we needed to fix before craft beer could flourish in Tennessee. The first was the unfair way Tennessee taxed beer at the wholesale level, putting more of a tax burden on smaller brewers. Thanks to your help, we were able to reform that law with overwhelming support for our “Fix the Beer Tax” reform bills from Tennessee legislators. The second law we wanted to reform was the arbitrary 5% alcohol by weight definition of what “beer” is.
“Beer” in Tennessee is defined as a fermented malt beverage containing 5% or less alcohol by weight. Any beer over that limit is defined as “high-gravity beer”, and can only be purchased at retail at state-licensed liquor stores. There are only 560 licensed liquor stores in Tennessee, and many of them either don’t carry high-gravity beers, or else relegate them to a hot, dusty shelf.
If, as a consumer and craft beer lover, you want a greatly improved beer selection in Tennessee, we need to change this. If you want your local brewers to spread their creative wings and brew a wider range of beers, we need to change this. Many of your favorite out-of-state brewers don’t send much of their high-gravity beers to Tennessee due to the limited number of places they can be sold. And while a few Tennessee brewers have brewed high-gravity beers, most have focused on lower gravity beers, which can reach the largest number of customers.
We are fighting this fight on two different legislative fronts. First and most immediate, we are fighting to have an amendment included on the “wine-in-grocery stores” bill that would allow “high-gravity beer” to be sold wherever wine is sold. While that amendment would not change the definition of “beer”, it would open up distribution of high-gravity beers into grocery stores and wherever the legislature decides wine can be sold.
Secondly, we have a sponsor in the Senate and the House who will be submitting bills to reform the definition of what “beer” is altogether. With recent reforms by Alabama and Mississippi, Tennessee now has the most regressive alcohol cap on “beer” of any of Southern state. Tennessee has long prided itself on being business-friendly, but this arbitrarily low cap on beer puts us out of step with our neighboring states and hurts local brewers. We would be delighted to abolish the cap altogether, and to make Tennessee’s definition of beer match the definition of the Federal government, which has no alcohol cap. However, we know that realistically we may have to accept some form of a cap, perhaps in the 12-15% range like many of our neighboring states.
So here comes the “ASK”. We need you to contact your legislators again and ask them for their support on two items:
Ask them in the title of your email to “Please allow high-gravity beer to be sold wherever wine is sold”. In the body, please say something like:
“Wine and high-gravity beer have long been treated as almost identical in Tennessee. One is fermented with grapes, the other with malted barley. They are taxed at the same rate, a rate much lower than hard liquor. As a craft beer lover who enjoys high-gravity beers, I want the same convenience as wine-lovers who are calling for wine sales in grocery stores.
Furthermore, it is high time that we updated the definition of “beer” in Tennessee. Right now, anything over 5% abw (6.2% alcohol by volume) is called “high-gravity beer” and can only be sold at retail in liquor stores. All of our neighboring states (even Mississippi and Alabama, now) have higher caps on what they define as beer. Some neighboring states have no cap at all. The explosion in the number of new breweries in Mississippi and Alabama has been remarkable, as has all the new sales tax revenues they have created. The growth in “craft beer” is a bright spot in the beer industry, but your local craft brewers need your help. I urge you to support the “Fix the Beer Cap” reform bills in the legislature this year.”
You can find your two legislators here: http://www.capitol.tn.gov
Other key people to contact:
Speaker Beth Harwell – email@example.com
The House State Gov’t Committee – http://www.capitol.tn.gov/house/committees/state-gov.html,
Especially Rep. Ryan Haynes firstname.lastname@example.org
We have several rallies planned in the next three weeks to help get the word out. Hopefully, there will be one close to you and we’ll see you there. The first Fix the Beer Cap rally will be this coming Friday, Jan 24th, in Memphis, at the Local Gastropub in Midtown from 7-9 PM. The second rally will be on Jan 31st at the Flying Saucer in Nashville, from 7-9 PM. The third rally will be in Knoxville on Feb 7th, at the Central Flats and Taps from 7-9 PM.
Thank you so much for your help, both last year and this year. There is a bright future ahead for craft beer in Tennessee!
President, TN Craft Brewers Guild