Rather, the intent of the bill is to regulate businesses (some of which are already operating) which provide space and equipment for private individuals to brew their own beer. Think curious beginners, or homebrewers who do not have the space to brew (or whose wives or husbands don't like the smell). It is legal under federal law within certain guidelines, but Montana has no regulations on the books to keep such businesses within the guidelines.
Speaking for the Department of Revenue, Shauna Helfert noted that current federal and Montana law allows people to brew at home for personal consumption and the Department has no interest in changing such provisions. (Thank goodness.)
Under the new license, a brew-on-premise operation can rent space and equipment and provide knowledge on the process, but cannot provide physical assistance. Providing physical assistance converts the brew-on-premise operation to a manufacturer of alcohol which is regulated in other ways. A license would cost $400 with a $200 annual renewal fee.
Prohibited physical assistance includes: filling of vessels with brewing ingredients; mixing of ingredients; movement of beer and malt beverages from one container to another; or filtering and bottling of the final product. It does not include: cleaning, maintenance, and repair of brewing and bottling equipment; maintenance of climate and temperature control; disposal of spent grains and wastes; quality control of beer and malt beverages, including laboratory examination; or preheating of vessels or containers.
Three people spoke in favor of the bill, Tony Herbert, Executive Director of the MBA; Kristi Blazer, Executive Director of the Montana Beer and Wine Distributors Association, and John Iverson, on behalf of the Montana Tavern Association. The MTA requested an amendment to make it absolutely clear that these premises cannot sell alcohol.
There was no opposition to the bill and questions from the Committee raised no significant issues. Odds are, HB 58 will have no trouble passing. As Representative Noonan noted in closing, if the bill does not pass, nothing happens to the existing or future businesses. They merely proceed on without regulation. (And who doesn't like more regulation?)
Executive action on HB 58 could come as early as Monday.
For all our articles pertaining to the 2013 Montana Legislature, click here.