Maine brewers seek legislative help

Probably Maine microbrews should have been served to the legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee as they hosted public hearings on a six-pack of bills designed to help this amazing industry to continue to expand. I’m sure the hearings would have been more fun. Wading through six bills on any subject can make for a tedious afternoon.

One key bill would acknowledge that beer is different from spirits, clarifying the level of taxation on microbrews.

“Today in Maine, brewers must formulate, create, and offer consumers a variety of beer styles and flavors to succeed in the increasingly crowded marketplace that characterizes our industry here and nationally” testified Sean Sullivan, the very capable Executive Director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild. “Beer is created using a process fundamentally different from spirits and this bill aims to clarify the law to ensure that the level of taxation on our product, ‘malt liquor’  (ie. beer) is clear and distinct from spirits products. “

Sean explained that LD 794 “aims to clarify the right of a malt liquor (ie. beer) brewer to utilize a food ingredient like vanilla extract in their brewing process – without having the finished product taxed at a spirits rate.”

Other bills would allow brewers to transfer their own beers between breweries and tap rooms, and expand opportunities for tastings (doubling the amount that can be served – I’m all in on that one!).

Both state and federal laws and rules governing microbrews are ridiculous and ridiculously complicated. For example, craft brewers are asking for permission to move their beers by tanker truck, can or keg. Yup, they can’t do that now.

Fighting these changes were the state’s Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, Maine Beer and Wine Distributors, and Anheuser-Busch. Shame on them. Please stop buying Bud and Bud Lite.

Maine is now blessed with more than 90 breweries from Shipyard in Portland to way downeast in Lubec. Many are looking to these law changes to help them expand.

These changes should be easily enacted. And then we’ll all head to the Liberal Cup in Hallowell and celebrate with a micro-brew.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.