May 18, 2014

H.3512 / #scbeerjobs / the Stone Bill

Few things get me as excited as beer.  So, when I heard that Stone Brewing Company was planning to open an east coast brewery (#StoneEast), I got a little excited (being an east-coaster and all).  I got more excited when I read that Myrtle Beach, my current place of residence, was vying for Stone to open up here.  "Pipe dreams," I thought.  Though, now it was in my brain.  I sooo wanted it to happen.

Then I read this article on beerofsc.com which made me give my hopes up entirely.  Apparently, SC law doesn't even allow for what Stone would want to do: a production brewery with a restaurant.  Nail in the coffin.  I still had hopes Stone would open up somewhere close, like in NC so I could at least visit.

But then, some even-keel, open-minded politicians decided SC should change its laws!  By golly!  The result was H.3512 (ok, really, the 'Stone Bill' is an amendment to H.3512, but whatever. You get the point).  For a full rundown of what the "Stone Bill" does, head back over to beerofsc.com.  But, essentially, it allows larger breweries to function more like brewpubs - food, pints, etc.  It goes way beyond making beer.  They can produce beer for sale in house or distribution AND sell you a pretzel!

And this was more than just Stone (or the minute possibility of Stone).  This meant that ALL SC breweries could do this.  They could open up tasting rooms that were actually welcoming and hospitable.  They could sell food.  They could be a place where I would want to hang out.  They could do so much more.

I jumped on emailing my representatives by using scbeerjobs.com, like all the other beer nerds in SC.  Luckily, thankfully, the bill passed through the SC House with flying colors!  On to the SC Senate. That is, until, the bill was pushed to a Conference Committee to reconcile language between the House and Senate versions.  (Drink. Blog. Repeat. has a fuller explanation.)  Not a bad thing, but a delay.

But then - THEN! - the Anheuser-Busch letter...  That got me fired up.  I've never written a letter to a politician in my life.  Not even when I was in second grade and that was what you did for Social Studies.   But this got me worked up.  I had to put my thoughts down.

So below, you will see the letter that I sent to the six SC legislators who will be on the conference committee.  I am not sure if they will actually read it, but it made me feel better.  And if any of them does read it, it will be worth my time.

While this post deviates from my homebrewing blog, I feel this is important enough to get the word out in whatever ways I can.  If you would like SC to be more open for breweries and beer, I encourage you to contact your representatives (the SC.gov website makes it pretty easy to both find and contact your representatives).  Share the word.  Use some of my language if you want to/have to.

I appreciate any help you can offer.

Cheers.

So, on a mobile device, the letter isn't showing up.  Try going to Google Docs to view it if you are having issues.

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Dear
I am writing to encourage you to support H.3512 and its amendments - what has become known as the “Stone Bill.”  I believe passage of this bill will do very good things for the state of South Carolina.  
Recently, a letter was sent to members of the SC Senate from a representative of Anheuser-Busch.  In the letter, it is mentioned that not as many jobs will be created if a brewery (such as Stone) opens up a satellite brewery in the state.  
I think this bill is more about the breweries who are already in SC instead of who may or may not come.  There are already plenty of breweries present and active in this state who would benefit from passage of this bill.  They will have increased opportunities for food, drinks, and other sales - all requiring more employees.  More employees are more jobs.  
Along the same lines, this bill makes it more attractive for other breweries to open up in South Carolina - be they new breweries or satellite breweries.  More openings means more jobs.  
Also in the letter from Anheuser-Busch, they mention that their Williamsburg brewery, which produces 8.5 million barrels, only has 72 salaried employees, nowhere near the 400 that this bill is claimed to create.  For my arguments about the jobs, see above.  The point I want to make with these numbers is that they are trying to keep out a brewery who produces less than 500,000 barrels of beer.  Anheuser-Busch just claimed they make 17 times that amount of beer.  Seventeen times the amount!  And it is only one of their many breweries.  
It seems to me that Anheuser-Busch is more concerned about the status quo and legislating their competition out of the market.  They should be concerned about innovating and producing a product that will compete with a brewery less than one-seventeenth its size.  If this isn’t proof that craft beer and smaller breweries are a growing, booming industry, I don’t know what is.  I want South Carolina to be in the game.
On a personal note, after living in Pennsylvania for over six years, I have recently moved to back to my home state of SC.  And, as you can probably tell, I am passionate about beer.  While in PA, we visited many local breweries and all were fantastic experiences.  Food was wonderful, tours were great, and it was nice trying samples or buying a few pints of beer.  These places were local hangouts and tourist attractions.  
When we moved back to South Carolina, we visited some breweries in Myrtle Beach, where we now live, and in Columbia.  While the beers were good (what little we were allowed to try), the overall experience was lacking.  Passing this bill would allow production breweries to do more.  Those who choose could open up a restaurant, a beer garden, or a nice tasting room.  It would become a place people would want to visit.  (On a side note, Anheuser-Busch still has a major presence in PA, despite all the breweries who can make beer and also sell food!)
In the end, this bill is good for everyone.  Jobs will get created.  Brewers will have more freedom to be creative and get their products out.  And customers will be happy.
Thank you for voting in favor of H.3512.