California Beer Bills: Round-Up of Proposed Beer Laws for 2014

The following is a list of bills introduced recently in the California Legislature and some summary information about what they would do. The most interesting bill on the docket, in my opinion, is AB 2010 due to the June amendment. A bill originally focused only on beer returns across the 3-tier system now includes language that limits the total number of duplicate licenses a brewery can obtain in order to run “branch offices” like the Stone Store in Pasadena.

Coupon-users, underage students, retailers stuck with off beer, and manufacturers sick and tired of people mutilating their metal kegs may be interested in these bills. April 2014 was unofficially California Craft Brewery Month, though the only fanfare that it received, as far as I can tell, was my updates on Twitter and this here blog post.

The bills are easily searchable on http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/ using the keyword, “beer,” or of course, the bill number.

AB 2609–Bill to re-allow homebrewer organizations to host homebrew events that were inadvertently outlawed last year by AB 1425. 

 

AB 2010–Introduced by Assembly Member Gray Feb 20, 2014

An act to amend BPC § 23104.2, and with a very recent amendent (6/12/14) repeal and add a new § 23389. The Senate Committee on Governmental Organization voted aye and now it sits with the Committee on Appropriations with a hearing date on 8/4/14.

This addition provides new language entirely  unrelated to returns for quality issues. It would provide a new structure for issuing duplicate licenses to that breweries can run “branch offices” (e.g., the Stone Store in Pasadena) that sell the brewer’s beer as though it is a brewing premises under the same license as the main brewery. Manufacturers would be limited to 6 duplicate licenses, two of which could be attached to a premises with a bona fide eating place (giving the brewer the ability to serve beer and wine from other producers under specified conditions).

The bill would allow retailers to return beer with “product quality issues” to sellers (and those sellers to manufacturers or importers). This would extend a current exception for beer that is recalled or that presents a health or safety issue to the general rule permitting wholesalers or manufacturers to accept return of beer “only if the beer is returned in exchange for the identical quantity and brand of beer.” Returns are permitted in the case of erroneous deliveries or when packaging is broken/damaging before delivery.

After the amendment, sellers can exchange the beer with product quality issues for the same beer if “quality-controlled product inventory” is available. Otherwise, the sellers may issue a credit or deferred exchange.  With the June 12 amendment, the language now specifies that any returns for quality issues are subject to ABC approval. Further, “aging of the beer” is not a condition qualifying it for a return.

 

Assembly Concurrent Resolution 116–Introduced by Chesbro (Co-author Senator Corbett)

The resolution proclaims April 2014 “California Craft Brewery Month.” Great news! As of late last week (May 23), thanks to a unanimous vote, APRIL 2014 IS officially California Craft Brewery Month. Let’s all go back to April and raise a toast.

The resolution has a number of fun WHEREAS clauses recognizing the importance and impact of the craft brewing movement in California. It also makes clear through historical references that California is where this movement got going back in the late 70s. It’s good to have that on the books, because a certain small New England-y state, probably because it happens to have the biggest craft brewery that has been around quite a while, has recently been calling itself the “epicenter” of the craft brewing movement in various news releases.

AB 1928–Introduced by Bocanegra Feb. 19, 2014

This bill passed and will become law, adding  § 25600.3 to BPC.

This bill would prohibit a licensee authorized to sell alcoholic beverages at retail from accepting, redeeming, possessing, or utilizing any type of coupon that is funded, produced, sponsored, promoted, or furnished by a beer manufacturer or beer and wine wholesaler. The bill would provide a definition of coupon for these purposes. By expanding the definition of a crime by imposing additional duties on a licensee under the act, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
 
The definition of coupon is “any method by which a consumer receives an instant discount at the time of the purchase that is funded, produced, sponsored, promoted, or furnished, either directly or indirectly, by a beer manufacturer or beer & wine wholesaler.

The definition of “Coupon” excludes mail-in rebates to obtain discounts from beer manufacturer or beer & wine wholesaler. It also excludes coupons funded by spirits manufacturers, winegrowers, and certain other licensees, so long as no “beer or malt beverages” are advertised in connection with the coupon.

AB 2203–Introduced by Chesbro Feb 20, 2014 (amends § 25202)

It is already illegal to obliterate, mutilate, or mark out a manufacturer’s name on “returnable beer containers … or cartons made of wood or fiber board” without written consent of manufacturer. This bill makes it also illegal to do so to metal kegs. In any case, the prohibition does not apply when the beer manufacturer has discontinued business and is no longer licensed to manufacture.

2203 has an 8/4/14 hearing date in Senate after passing through Assembly and looks like it will pass.

AB 1989–Introduced by Chesbro Feb. 20, 2014 (to amend §§ 25658 and 25662 and add § 25668 to BPC).

The bill would provide an educational exception to the prohibition on underage drinking tasting of beer and wine.

The new section would permit “qualified students” to taste alcoholic beverages, without the student or the qualified academic institution being subject to criminal prosecution, if several criteria are met.

  • Student must taste while enrolled.
  • Institution must have AA or BA in enology or brewing.
  • Tasting occurs as part of course required for enology or brewing program.
  • Beverage remains in control of instructor, at least 21 years of age.
  • Must be part of curriculum requirements.
  • A recent amendment clarified the institution need not be licensed provided it doesn’t charge anything extra for the tasting.
  • A “taste” means “to draw an alcoholic beverage into the mouth, but does not include swallowing or otherwise consuming the alcoholic beverage.”

The bill successfully passed through the legislature and will become law.

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