JailBreak front entrance

Reform on Tap Task Force #4

In Violent Agreement

Laurel, Maryland – Jailbreak Brewing Company

I walked into Jailbreak just a few minutes before 3:00 PM and sat at the bar. I was early for the 4th Reform on Tap Task Force, so I thought I’d order a beer. My taste buds were craving my favorite Jailbreak and Howard County beer – VanDammit. Columbia Pint Night member, Z,  mentioned he had one on Friday, so this limited release beer was available, or so I thought. The bartender gave me the bad news, “They ran out of VanDammit yesterday.” Errrg! I order a Miami Vice, instead. I really like this kettle-soured Berliner Weisse; the key lime puree gives it a nice fruity sweetness. (but it’s no VanDammit)

The Reform on Tap Task Force kicked off with a few opening words by the Maryland Comptroller, Peter Franchot. Then our host and owner of Jailbreak, Justin Bonner, welcomed us and told us a little about Jailbreak. They just celebrated their third year of business and have 36 employees. Then Justin bought a round for everyone attending the event – nice!

Peter Franchot kicks off Reform on Tap
Peter Franchot kicks off Reform on Tap

At this point, let me just say, I’m just a guy who likes to drink good craft beer. In fact, I enjoy it so much, I write this blog about craft beer and I’ve even made a few batches of my own homebrew. For me, finding the next new delicious craft beer is what I live for. On the other hand, the complex Maryland beer laws are an amazing labyrinth of legislation that this easily distracted beer drinker finds tiresome.

Reform on Tap Task Force #4
Reform on Tap Task Force #4 at Jailbreak

Apparently, the last reform on tap session got a little contested. Some questions from the previous meeting were still unresolved, so they were revisited at the meeting. The Task Force spent nearly an hour talking about the law requiring an 180-day notice to terminate an existing relationship with a wholesaler. 180 days (almost 6 months) seems to me to be a very long time to have to remain in a  sour business relationship.

The “buy back” clause was brought up again. Let me get on my soap box about this, one more time. It is good that HB1283 has increased the taproom beer limit to 2000 barrels. It is ludicrous that a brewery can serve an additional 1000 barrels, but only if it is sold to the distributor, touched down at the warehouse and returned to the brewery. In this time of global warming, it is shameful for a governing body to legislate this wasteful, ludicrous practice. If taproom limitations are the goal, just pay a fee to the distributor for the additional barrels.

The beer industry has changed a great deal over the past few decades. In earlier times, there were just a few large brewers and many small distributors. Today, that scenario has been turned on its head, with nearly 70 Maryland brewers and fewer distributors due to consolidation. The laws from the 70’s to protect the small distributor from mighty breweries don’t always apply anymore. Comments from each tier were that they need the other tiers and actually have excellent relationships with them. I believe the tension in the room or the “violent agreement” (my term)  is about all these small, new breweries wanting to adjust the rules to protect their interest and give them a chance to compete fairly.

I think Chuck Ferrar of Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits of Annapolis said it best, “We have the same ultimate goal. Sell more beer, make more money.”





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