Sununu signs bill easing rules for New Hampshire beer brewers

Small craft beer brewers in New Hampshire will have more flexibility to sell their products directly to consumers under a bill signed by Gov. Chris Sununu.

The new law, which passed the state Legislature with bipartisan support, lifts a number of decades-old restrictions on beer makers, allows brewers to operate a stand-alone retail outlet to sell their brews and allows them, and wineries, to ship directly to customers.

“New Hampshire brewers are innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs,” Sununu said in a statement. “They built their businesses – our job is to get out of the way to let them thrive and grow.”

The new law also lifts a cap on how many cases of beer a brewer who operates a pub can sell to a single customer, eliminating a rule that small brewers said had stacked the deck against them.

Under previous state law, most craft brewers were prohibited from selling the equivalent of more than one case of 12 ounce beers directly to a customer.

The legislation was revised to limit breweries to one retail outlet per business, after groups such as the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association and the New Hampshire Grocers Association raised concerns about unfair competition.

Craft brewing in Maine has developed into a $500 million industry that employs more than 4,700 workers, according to the New Hampshire Brewers Association.

Microbrewers and pro-business groups such as the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy have lobbied for years to repeal the laws.

In a recent policy statement, the group criticized the previous rules as “protectionist” and said they've held back growth of the micro-brewing industry in the state.

“Legislators deliberately handicapped craft breweries to protect restaurants, retailers and beer distributors,” the group wrote in a recent post. “Those protections have made it harder than necessary for New Hampshire brewers to grow and to reach consumers.”

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