Arizona Senate Reviews Craft Brewing Bills

By Steve Shadley
Published: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 5:37pm
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(Steve Shadley/ KJZZ News)
Ken Wilson (left) of Flagstaff's Lumberyard Brewing and Chip Mulala with San Tan Brewing of Chandler support SB 1030 that would set higher limits for how much beer Arizona craft breweries can produce.

Craft brewers want state lawmakers to approve a bill making it clear how much beer they can produce each year. They rallied at the state capitol Monday in support of one of two beer-making measures the legislature is reviewing this week.

Craft beer is taking off in Arizona with 60 specialty brewers statewide and growing. Melissa Osborne is with Four Peaks brewing in Tempe and she described their signature beer.

“It’s our Scottish amber, with a real clean, easy drinking, nice character not a lot of hops or bitterness," Osborne said.

It’s estimated that craft brewers employ almost 3,500 workers in Arizona, but they say existing regulations on their industry aren’t very clear. 

Rob Fullmer is executive director of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. He’s pushing lawmakers to support Senate Bill 1030 that allows craft breweries to increase production beyond the current cap of 40,000 barrels a year per location of each micro brew.

We feel that this is a road map for all Arizona breweries," Fullmer said. "It brings clarity and predictability to the law and allows them to compete with California and Colorado who bring amazing products to our state, but we’re losing our home field advantage here."

But, opponents of SB 1030 said it was written in favor of Arizona’s largest craft brewery Four Peaks. 

David Leibowitz is a spokesman with the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesaler Association, which wants lower limits on beer production.

"Four Peaks at some point has to put on their big boy pants and realize that you can’t be a mega brewery and still get the special privileges that microbreweries get,” Leibowitz said.   

Chip Mulala is with San Tan Brewery in Chandler.  He supports SB 1030 and opposes the other bill regulating craft breweries because he fears it would punish successful beer companies that also serve food.

"The one big negative where this can effect us is the closing down of our restaurants," Mulala said. "Those jobs are in jeopardy if that opposition law is passed."

Both measures got their first hearing in a state senate committee Monday.