Back in August we reported that the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) approved a pilot program allowing breweries and wineries to serve free samples at select farmers markets across the state (read that story). The pilot program launched on September 1, 2011. Today, just three months into the pilot program, the Tacoma News Tribune reports that the WSLCB says that there have been no problems and things seem to be running smoothly.
It isn’t surprising, really. The program allows four-ounce samples be served to adults of legal drinking age. We’re talking about serving samples to people who shop at the farmers market, not bar-hopping teenagers with fake ID. It is highly improbably that people looking for nothing but a free buzz would start flocking to the local farmers market to get their drink on. It is even less likely they would get very buzzed. The program forbids serving anything over 8% ABV.
Anne Radford, spokesperson for the WSLCB, told the Tacoma News Tribune that Liquor Control Board enforcement officers have been making unannounced visits to markets offering tastings. She said the agency has received no complaints from the public. “Overall things are running smoothly,” Radford said.
The pilot program runs through November 2012, at which time the Legislature will either expand or discontinue the program. Although free tasters at farmers markets might seem like a no-brainer to some of us, the pilot program was not without opponents in the Legislature when it was announced earlier this year. Most vocally, Senator Pam Roach, R-Auburn, said the Legislature needed to be consistent in how cigarettes and alcohol are treated in the state.
“We don’t allow free samples of cigarettes,” she said. “After all these years, now we want to serve free samples of alcohol?”
Yes, Senator Roach, we want to serve free samples of alcohol.
The whole point of the program is to promote Washington’s wineries and breweries. The winery and brewery industries are just about the only growth industries in the state these days. I hope that Senator Roach is not against local industry and jobs.
I recently spoke to Chris Engdahl of Seattle’s Lantern Brewing. I asked how things were going for Lantern these days, knowing that the primary market for its beer is the local farmers market. He told me that the neighborhood market –Phinney Farmers Market, held on Fridays– was a great way for him to introduce people to his product. In short, he said things were going quite well.
Maybe serving samples and selling product at the local farmers market will enable Lantern Brewing to grow beyond its current nanobrewery status, hire some employees and pay more taxes. We’ll see. Of course I wish him luck, however I must admit that the hyper-local aspect of brewing beer at a brewery in the Phinney neighborhood and then selling it exclusively at the Phinney Farmers Market is pretty damn cool.
Read the story in the Tacoma News Tribune about this subject.