The Andrew Cuomo administration and the State Legislature in general have been tremendously supportive of the state’s adult beverage industry. The continually expanding number of makers of craft beers, spirits and ciders is testimony to a regulatory atmosphere conducive to more production and marketing. On Friday, it got even better when the Office of the Governor announced that four bills involving the industry had been signed into law as part of a mass signing of various legislative measures.
Here’s a rundown on the latest array of legislative bills the governor has just signed into law. Bear in mind that the term “farm” when appended to distilleries, wineries, breweries or cideries does not necessarily indicate a farm-based facility. It refers to those using a certain level of New York farm-grown ingredients.
Allowing farm distilleries to sell gift items. State Sen. George A. Amedore Jr. (R-46th District) submitted the legislation because under state law only three of the four “farm” category alcoholic beverage producers — cideries, wineries and breweries — had been allowed to sell gift items. Effective immediately, the fourth such producer, distilleries, may do so “to increase their revenue, encourage repeat customers, and improve their business by selling gift items.”
Prohibiting the sale of, or offering for sale, any powdered or crystalline alcohol product. These products have been popping up around the country under such brand names as Palcohol and Booz2go. Essentially, they work like Kool-Aid and any other similar products. They have been the subject of regulatory confusion. On April 8, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), part of the Department of the Treasury, issued the federal approvals necessary for the manufacture and sale of Palcohol. Two weeks later, it said that decision was “in error,” but has not elaborated on the topic. The magazine Scientific American has an interesting interview on the topic with the noted chemist-biologist Dr. Aar Oh.
Reducing paperwork. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Betty Little (R-Glens Falls), immediately exempts brewers who produce less than 60,000 barrels of beer a year from the requirement to file annual information returns with the state Department of Taxation and Finance. Her justification language notes that “Microbreweries and farm breweries are both limited under their licenses to 60,000 barrels per year. However, farm breweries are exempt from this reporting requirement … . Sales under this provision make up a very small amount of the total beer sales in the state as most of the beer these breweries produce are already being accounted for by sales through distributors. These small breweries are not equipped to handle this type of data collection and submittal, and it is a tremendous burden on these small businesses.”
Making changes in tastings procedure. This new law that takes effect in 30 days amends the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) law by allowing beer, cider, and liquor tastings for consumers at licensed premises. Currently, while it is legal to offer tastings of alcohol at licensed retail premises, with the exception of wine a manufacturer (i.e., distillery, brewery, or cidery) must be invited to conduct the actual sampling. The new law will allow licensed retail premises themselves to provide beer, cider, and liquor tastings, depending on the category of their respective license. Says Sen. Carl. l. Marcelinno (R-5th District), “In addition to helping increase sales and tax revenue, the proposal is in response to the increasing variety of craft brews, ciders, and distillates that are now offered on numerous retail shelves. In many cases, these beverages are made from regional ingredients, and often marketed with eclectic names to reflect their unique heritage. Naturally, customers are interested in tasting the product before making a purchase. In addition, there will be increased opportunity to suggest food pairings to complement the thriving interest in these specialty creations.”