New Rules Brew Trouble For Mass. Microbrewers

By Cristina Quinn

Aug. 5, 2011

Greater Boston video: Trouble for Mass. microbrewers?

BOSTON — An advisory put out by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission this week could potentially force local breweries out of business. The new rule would affect brewers who operate under a farmer-brewery license, requiring them to produce at least 50 percent of their own hops and grain, or acquire them from a state source. Jocelyn Hughes, owner of the Watch City Brewing Company in Waltham, says these demands are unrealistic.

"There really aren’t enough farmers based in Massachusetts to fulfill that need. There’s one malt house in all of Massachusetts, so the ABCC, while trying to promote farming in MA, would actually drive us small breweries out of Massachusetts to try to find a place where this is not required," Hughes said.

Given the limited farm space in the Bay State, small brewers speculate that money is the real issue, and not the promotion of local farming. The annual farmer-brewery license fee is based on the amount of barrels a brewery produces, which is much lower compared to the annual beer manufacturers’ license of $10,000 dollars.

"We are coming to realize that it’s fee-based and it’s coming from their need for revenue in this economic crisis that we’re in. Which is fine if they had been straightforward and went through the legislature and went to us and asked for our advice and had some kind of dialogue and some kind of transparency but instead they write this advisory which totally throws us into a lot of concern," Hughes said.

Brewers are scheduled to meet next week with the state treasurer’s office, which oversees the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission to work things out.

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