Nevada may not be Oregon, California or Colorado when it comes to the craft beer renaissance, but the state is making steady progress.
The Review-Journal’s Alexander Corey reported over the weekend that Southern Nevada is now home to 20 small breweries. Overall, there are 34 craft brewers in Nevada, up from 18 in 2011.
That’s a far cry from just 20 years ago when Las Vegas’s first brew pub opened, the Holy Cow at the northeast corner of Sahara and the Strip. Back then, antiquated state laws prevented such businesses from operating — until lawmakers relaxed the statutes a bit to allow their existence only in “redevelopment” districts.
But the Legislature eventually lifted those geographic restrictions and today craft breweries thrive from Henderson to the northwest. In 2015, companies in Nevada produced almost 65,000 barrels of craft beer, according to the Brewers Association, a national trade group. To put that in perspective, Budweiser produces about 40 million barrels a year.
Unfortunately, the state regulatory apparatus again threatens to hamper industry growth. Under Nevada law, brew pubs and microbreweries with tap operations may produce only 15,000 barrels a year. The ceiling hampers the potential expansion of successful operators — and discourages larger, more established brewers from setting up shop in Nevada.
“I think because our state faces a production cap on barrelage, until we get that increase, we’re not gonna see larger independent craft brewers come here,” Wyndee Forrest, co-founder of CraftHaus Brewery in Henderson, told Mr. Corey.
That’s too bad. The Brewers Association calculates that the craft beer industry contributed $55.7 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014, including 424,000 jobs. In addition, microbrew sales jumped 12.8 percent in 2015 and such product now constitutes more than 12 percent of all U.S. beer purchases.
This is a thriving market flush with the entrepreneurial spirit and an expanding consumer base willing to spend money for high-end products. Nevada policymakers should be doing everything they can to encourage the nascent industry and the creation of the jobs and businesses that come along with it.
Reforming protectionist and stifling distribution regulations that often hinder the retail growth of craft beer is almost certainly out of the question. But lawmakers during the 2017 session should at least move to eliminate the production cap, which serves only to inhibit the expansion of a popular and flourishing enterprise.