Oklahoma craft brewers toast new law for beer
Visitors to Anthem Brewing Co.'s Oklahoma City tap room can buy a glass of cold beer at a bar inside the brewery, housed in a former manufacturing plant at 908 SW 4, but state law has so far limited sales to 3.2 beer.
A new state law will go into effect this summer that will change that.
Craft breweries in Oklahoma will be able to sell full-strength beer for the first time under a bill Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law this week.
The law will allow Anthem to sell it's full portfolio of beers at the brewery for the first time, said Patrick Lively, brewmaster for Anthem.
"To be limited with what we can do in our facility limits our ability to connect with customers and consumers," Lively said. "Any sort of expansion of our ability to do that is a step in the right direction."
While Oklahoma wineries have long been able to sell their products on-site, craft brewers have been limited to selling 3.2 beer on premises. Breweries have been able to provide customers up to 12-ounce samples of full-strength beer. To sell full-strength beer, Oklahoma brewers have had to go through a wholesaler, which then distributes the product to liquor stores.
The new law, Senate Bill 424, is scheduled to go into effect Aug. 25. Under the new law, craft breweries will be able to sell glasses of full-strength beer to visitors, as well as bottles, cans and growlers for customers to take home.
Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, who sponsored the bill, said he decided to carry the legislation because he believes Oklahoma's alcohol laws were outdated. State law has long treated strong beer sales the same as liquor.
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“I think that Oklahoma has antiquated laws dealing with liquor and because we consider strong beer to be a liquor, we were hindering that market,” Crain said.
Zach Prichard, president of Krebs-based Choc Beer Co. and president of the Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma, said he believes the new law will help the state's growing craft beer industry flourish.
For one thing, it will make it easier for new brewers to get started and become profitable, Prichard said. The new law also will make it easier for craft brewers to experiment with small batches of beer for limited release that customers can purchase on-site, he said.
“I think you are going to see more brewers and you are going to see more creativity and expansion from the existing brewers,” Prichard said.
While Arkansas and Colorado have growing beer tourism industries, Oklahoma has so far been mostly left out of that loop because of the state's restrictive laws, Prichard said.
“You're going to have a larger localized impact outside of the breweries, you are going to see a rise of beer tourism, with people moving around state to sample and purchase beer,” he said.