Bill would increase Nevada craft beer production, but sellers oppose plan


CARSON CITY — A bill seeking to increase the amount of beer craft breweries can produce annually ran into a foamy wall of opposition from large liquor interests during a legislative hearing Wednesday.

Senate Bill 130 from Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, would increase the allowed production capacity from 15,000 barrels to 45,000 barrels a year. A barrel is the equivalent of 31 gallons.

Settelmeyer said his proposal is aimed at helping small businesses in Nevada grow.

“It’s great that we have large corporations that come into Nevada with their products.” he said. “By the same respect I tend to believe we should do what we can to foster these smaller businesses within this state.

“This is a growing industry, to say the least,” Settelmeyer told the Commerce and Labor Committee, which took no immediate action on the bill.

Jaron Hildebrand, representing the Craft Brewers Manufacturing Group, told the panel that Oregon and Washington have no limits on barrel capacity, while neighboring Utah has a 60,000-barrel limit.

Tom Young, brew master and owner of the Great Basin Brewing businesses in Reno and Sparks, said Nevada is behind the times. If he wants to increase production beyond the 15,000-barrel limit, the rules would require him to stop selling to the public at his restaurants, Young said.

“It’s been a real fun road to this point and we want this road to continue,” he said.

Wyndee Forrest, co-owner of the CraftHaus Brewery in Henderson, said the business has seen its production increase 70 percent over last year. The brewery is growing at an aggressive rate but will be forced to move out of state if the production cap is not increased, she said.

“A production cap is counterintuitive to our state becoming competitive in the craft beer marketplace,” Forrest said.

Nevada saw a $480 million economic impact from the state’s 30-plus craft breweries, she said.

THE OPPOSITION

The bill was opposed by Alfredo Alonzo, a lobbyist representing Southern Glazer Wine and Spirits and the Nevada Beer Wholesalers Association.

It was clear in 1995 when the brewpub industry was authorized by lawmakers that it was to be a limited retail license to go with a small supplier to give them a leg up, he said.

“Beer sales are down,” Alonzo said. “I understand the issue of growth. But it has to be managed.”

The states with no caps or higher barrel limits also have large budgets for enforcement, he said. Nevada has two positions for enforcement compared to 45 for Oregon, Alonzo said.

“To make sure when you have a brewer, that they are actually paying their taxes,” Alonzo said. “There has to be some balance. There has to be some enforcement. There has to be some cap on what is sold on premise.”

Alonzo said there may be room for compromise on the bill. Settelmeyer said he is willing to work with the interested parties in coming up with a solution this session.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.