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Beer bills
Upping the ante for wine and craft beer

02/25/16
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



State Rep. Adam Schroadter isn’t trying to get people extra drunk. He just wants New Hampshire’s laws to allow rare, high-end specialty beers that happen to have higher alcohol content than is currently allowed.

“They’re not cheap beers. They’re not something people are binge drinking. It’s sort of like a fine wine, a connoisseur-type product,” Schroadter said. “There is clearly a goal that New Hampshire be the one in the region that is first if you’re looking to buy [liquor], but we’re the last state that people think of when they think where are they going to go buy specialty beer.” 
There’s been progress in changing the state’s laws concerning beer, wine and liquor, which makes it easier for breweries of all sizes, wineries and distilleries to produce and bring products to market, but some lawmakers say there’s still plenty of work left to do to help producers, retailers and restaurants.
Schroadter, a Republican from Newmarket, got into politics after becoming the proprietor of a bar and helping start the local farmers market. He originally planned to lease the Stone Church Music Club, but after tenants disappeared due in part to overburdensome regulations, Schroadter says, he was inspired to make some changes.
One of his first bills successfully raised the legal alcohol limit in beer from 6 to 12 percent. Now he’s co-sponsoring a bill that would raise the legal limit in the state’s definition of “specialty beer” to 21 percent. 
“It was a big step forward, but the job’s not done,” Schroadter said.
In addition to specialty beer, there’s a bill that would create a license for “beer specialty,” sponsored by Rep. Keith Murphy, the owner of Murphy’s Tavern in Manchester. The license would be for retail operations, the primary purpose for which would be the sale of beer. In the current licensing structure, Schroadter says retail businesses are burdened by requirements to sell non-beer items.
Burt Bingel, the owner of Burt’s Better Beers in Hooksett, is in favor of the bill. He says he wouldn’t necessarily stop selling food, but he’d like to have the choice as to which items he stocks. Bingel says some have expressed concerns in the Statehouse that the bill would create food deserts in parts of the state if stores decide to remove basic food items from their shelves, like bread and milk.
Another bill Murphy has sponsored and Schroadter has co-sponsored would allow for direct shipments of more than 20 barrels of beer to licensees or consumers. Murphy says this would cut out the beer distributors, who have a de facto monopoly right now, by allowing importers and out-of-state brewers to drive up small batches of beer without middlemen or high commission fees. Right now, direct shipping is allowed for only wine and liquor.
A number of bills in the House would further lower license fees for wineries, exempt wine sample fees from the meals tax and create a study committee looking into lowering the sale fees of local wine. Finally, a bill passed by the Senate (SB 306) would allow for the sampling of beer and wine at farmers markets. The legislature recently made the sale of those items legal at farmers markets but, Schroadter said sampling was still not allowed. It’s been his experience that making these changes happen in baby steps. 
The Senate also passed pills that would classify fermented pear juice as hard cider and allow liquor sales in stadium box seating with a special license. 





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