A funny thing happened in Olympia recently. The legislature did something that actually benefits Washington’s 300+ breweries, passing a bill that helps local brewers promote and sell their beers.
On March 31st, Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 2605 into law. The bill, which was supported by the Washington Brewers Guild and sponsored by Representative Steve Kirby of Tacoma, provides access to a new type of liquor permit. In turn, these permits should create new beer events for consumers.
Thanks to the new law, a Washington brewery can now get up to 12 permits per year that allow it to hold private events for the purpose of sharing and selling the beer it produces.
Previously, breweries could hold tasting events but they could not sell beer at those events. The law opens up new sales and marketing opportunities and allows local breweries to host fun events for their faithful customers. Taste something you like, buy a bottle right there and take it home. This is a luxury that the wine industry has enjoyed for years and the new law finally levels the playing field for the state’s breweries. (FYI, most cider producers are licensed as wineries.)
“We see two different types of uses for this new permit,” says Annie McGrath, Executive Director of the Washington Brewers Guild. “One, private businesses sometimes host beer tastings for their employees where a brewer will go in and pour. It’s a fun perk employers can offer their employees and brewers will often do it because it gives them an opportunity to get their beers in front of new audiences.”
“Right now at these events, breweries can pour but not make any sales for off-premise consumption. With this permit, a brewery could make a sale right there on the spot, while someone is actively interested in their beer. We think if someone tries and likes a new beer and has a chance to take some home and enjoy it again later, it’ll help build brand loyalty for WA small brewers.”
“The second type of event we see happening with this permit is breweries hosting private parties for their loyal customers,” continues McGrath. “For example, say a brewery in Eastern Washington has no distribution in Western Washington, but has a lot of Seattle-area residents that belong to their beer club. With this permit, that brewery could invite those beer club members and host a party for them at a private location in the Seattle area.”
“We can also imagine brewers hosting events in their own neighborhoods. We know Washington brewers are creative and fun, and we’re excited to see what kind of events they come up with!”