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!).