Washington Brewers: When Can You Give Beer Away?

The Washington Liquor Control Board (LCB) says it's okay to give away free beer sometimes. Here's a rundown of the relevant regs.
The Washington Liquor Control Board (LCB) says it’s okay to give away free beer sometimes. Here’s a rundown of the relevant regs.

Regulations ​aren’t fun to read. They’re cryptic. Often, it can seem like they were intentionally written to confuse you. Recently, we were reminded of that when we reviewed the Washington Liquor Control Board regs relating to when you can give away free beer. The general rule is that you can’t. But, here’s a quick rundown of what the LCB says about free beer, for those strategic or charitable times a brewery wants to pass out ​the good stuff, gratis.

Keep in mind, the beer given away under the exceptions below would all be subject to taxation.

1. A brewery can give away beer to licensed places like retailers or distributors for the purposes of negotiating a sale to them, subject to other LCB regs.

2. A brewery can give away beer for instructional purposes, such as ​educating the brewery’s employees or employees at other licensed places like bars and restaurants. ​ This exception isn’t limited to sales ​staff or bartenders, and the LCB expressly calls out chefs as the sort of employee a producer might want to educate. Bring on the pairings!

3. A brewery can give away beer to certain nonprofits, so long as the use of the free beer is going to be consistent with the reason the nonprofit is a nonprofit.

4. Of course, a brewery can hand it out on its premises, subject to some quantity restrictions (and also the obvious, no ​over​-​serving). Keep in mind that when a brewery has set up shop at a farmers market, the stall/space there temporarily becomes an extension of the brewery’s premises. Click here for more on beer at farmers markets.

​And, that’s the gist of the free beer exceptions. ​You can read the relevant LCB regulation in full ​here (have fun!).

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Whew! Coffee Beers Appear To Be Safe, For Now.

Its safe.

Earlier today, the Washington State Liquor Control Board imposed a ban on certain alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine, guarana, taurine, or other similar substances. The language of the ban regulation can be found on the LCB’s website. The ban is a direct response to a number of dangerous alcohol-related scares to college students who had been consuming Four Loko, an alcoholic energy drink.

I originally reported that the ban seemed to broad enough to include a prohibition on coffee beers – but it appears that is not the LCB’s intention. Breathe easy, beer lovers.

This law is being implemented under the State’s emergency powers, which provide for expedited regulatory powers in times of need. The law is temporary and will expire in March 2011. Thus, the LCB will be prompted to begin the regular law-making procedure to put together a final, more clear, regulation.

Here is the current language that is being put in place:

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No More Coffee Stouts in Washington? LCB Bans Caffeine in Alcoholic Energy Beverages

Is Mocha Death and other coffee beer coming off the shelf?

***UPDATE: It appears that coffee beers will be safe. The LCB says that the motivation is to go after products with added caffeine and marketed as energy drinks. This does not include products that add coffee, or other things that have caffeine, for flavor.

Check out this follow up post for more information on how the new temporary law works. A permanent regulation will be up for public comment soon.****

This may be huge news, particularly for those of us who love our breakfast stouts. Washington has just banned alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine and/or several other “energy” additives.

This is a big punch to many brewers in the State of Washington – and others who sell who beer here. There is a widening market for the sale of coffee-infused beer. Many brewers, such as Ellensburg’s Iron Horse Brewing, sell a coffee-based beer as part of their regular lineup.

I had a brief conversation with the Liquor Control Board, who seemed to infer that as long as beer and caffeine are combined in the same bottle/container – it cannot be sold or produced here in Washington.

Attached below is the initial press release that is going out in the next few hours. Give it a thorough read.

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Liquor Control Board Executive Openly Opposes Initiative 1100 – Citizen Files Ethics Complaint

Could we see all 3 in your corner store? The Liquor Control Board hopes not.

The Initiative 1100 battle is still running hot and heavy. The animus shown by both parties, for each other, is thick. We have discussed it a few times, here on our blog.

Recently, the Liquor Control Board (LCB) has been vocal about its disdain for the proposed Initiative.  The Washington Wine Institute hosted Washington Liquor Control Board Deputy Director, Rick Garza, at a panel meeting in Woodinville, last month. The purpose of the panel was to show the public why most of the local beverage industry opposes the Initiative. The Washington Brewers Guild was also present, echoing the Wine Institute’s call. (You can listen to Garza’s presentation by following this link over at SoundPolitics.com)

Apparently, one concerned citizen is upset about the LCB’s public presence. A local Seattle man (and writer for SoundPolitics.com) has filed a Complaint with the State of Washington Executive Ethics Board against Garza, alleging that the LCB executive is illegally using public resources and misleading the public with false information.

If you are interested in the Complaint, you can find a brief summary by clicking on this link, and you can read the entire Complaint by following this link. The LCB’s position has been laid out in a series of slides that can be read by following this link.

This blog takes no position with regard to the Complaint. Furthermore, we have no supporting information which makes us believe that the LCB is misleading the public.

It is, however, apparent that the LCB is openly involved in the “Vote No” movement. Recent materials illustrate that they believe  the passing of Initiative 1100 will cost millions, necessitating a dip into the State’s general fund to meet LCB budget requirements.

Of course, the war of words will only gain steam as we approach November. Feel free to leave comments below if you have something to add to the discussion.

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