Hard Liquor Easier to Sell Under New State Bill

An East Bay state senator’s 'Craft Distiller Op-pour-tunity' Act could allow smaller, niche distilleries to sell liquor directly to boozy buyers.

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A whole lot of legislation pours out of Sacramento in the final days of August, and one bill takes a shot at the very curious regulations that cover California’s small-batch, craft spirit distilleries. Alcohol and spirit distillers like Alameda’s St. George Spirits and Menlo Park’s Rocket Vodka are treated much differently than wineries, beer breweries, and large-scale liquor producers.

In a bizarre legal stipulation, distilleries can only sell you their craft liquors if they have a tasting room, and after you’ve already participated in a tasting. If the craft distillery does not have a tasting room, they cannot sell you booze at all, and must rely on their distributor for sales.

State senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) is on the verge of changing that, with a bill that just passed both houses of the California legislature on its next-to-last day of eligibility for the year. Skinner’s SB 1164, nicknamed the “Craft Distiller Op-pour-tunity” Act, would allow all 82 of California’s craft distillers to sell directly to consumers even if they do not have a tasting room.

“Craft distillers, with their emphasis on locally sourced California ingredients, capture and bottle the essence of California’s Farm to Table movement,” Skinner says in a release. “SB 1164 makes it easier for us to responsibly enjoy these local products.”

The bill eliminates the tasting room requirement, as well as the prerequisite advance tasting. It also increases the volume craft distillers are allowed to produce annually from 100,000 gallons to 150,000 gallons.

As with all of the bills passed at the very end of the legislative session, the measure becomes law if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown by Sept. 30.

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