It’s a little more than beer spilling out of gas stations.
Pennsylvania’s unexplainable alcohol laws have been holding strong for decades, but the first buckle loosened this past month when six packs were made available for sale in gas stations and other previously forbidden locations. Although this has a direct effect on consumers in the near future, in the form of being able to buy beer anywhere from Sheetz to Wegmans, its effect on brewers is more complex.
With new license-holders entering the playing field in the form of gas stations, an entirely new batch of buyers will be looking for the most solidified brands to sell in their space. This law is a move in the right direction for consumers and opens new markets for local brewers, but limited shelf space could be quickly taken up by global brewing companies with recognizable labels. Another section of the bill allows wine to be sold at locations such as Wegmans, which will add further competition to the grocery store shopping realm. Overall, these effects can help the state tremendously, but local brewers must be quick to forge relationships with newly licensed distributors and retailers.
House Bill 1690 makes way for breweries to produce ciders up to 8.5% ABV, as opposed to the past limit of 5.5%, which also widens the playing field for brewers. With new, crafty ciders coming out regularly, it is great to know that brewers can join the craze and distribute their products as normal. As for inside the brewery, Pennsylvania distillery products can now be legally sold for on-site consumption.
Retail licensees and breweries have been granted the ability to run mug clubs using designated drinking glasses, as the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association points out. While this addition is a step forward, it comes with the odd stipulation that there must be a singular mug that is kept by the drinker or by the brewery for the drinker. Another notable provision that is overdue permits craft beer to be sold at farmers’ markets, which adds another avenue for brewers to explore and forge connections.
This bill added $1 million in funding for the Pennsylvania Malt and Brewed Beverages Industry Promotion Board, which works to enhance the state’s craft beer and wine industries in terms of growth and overall production. While these funds, and many of the provisions of this bill, will have an ongoing effect on the industry as time progresses, it appears things are moving in the right direction in helping consumers have easy, and improved, access to beer.
Overall, the shift toward being able to buy beer alongside groceries or gas, rather than only from tightly regulated distributors, could dim sales for craft breweries that have strong relationships with established distributors. As consumers continue to seek brews and other beverages as they are on the go at other stores, small breweries will have to fight for shelf space to compete alongside national names or find new routes to explore and reach their customers.
The Brewers of Pennsylvania is a nonprofit trade association that brings together leaders of Pennsylvania-based breweries in order to promote and protect the brewing industry in the state. Established in 2011, the Brewers of Pennsylvania serves the consuming public of Pennsylvania by encouraging brand diversity in the market. We believe in the nobility of brewing and hold dear the great traditions and history of Pennsylvania brewing.
Photo credits: Voodoo Brewery bottles, Voodoo Brewery; Saucony Creek bottles, founder Matt Lindenmuth