Kentucky Gets on Board with its Brewers

country boy brewing

The state of Kentucky is a governor’s signature away from doubling the barrelage cap for microbreweries in the state, along with cleaning up language that is not just positive to smaller breweries, but also for the wine and Bourbon industries.

On Tuesday night during the Kentucky General Assembly, the state House ratified SB 11, a alcohol incentive tax bill, by a 31-6 count. That comes a day after the state Senate passed it by a 29-8 margin. Now all it needs to be official is a signature by Governor Matt Bevin, who even addressed the House informally Tuesday to say that the bills being voted on were great for the state, a rarity reported by local media in Lexington, Kentucky.

“I don’t know if the Governor is a big drinker either way, Bourbon, wine or beer … but he’s a business guy,” said Lexington’s Country Boy Brewing co-founder and GM Daniel Harrison. “It’s an economic bill that benefits the alcohol industry, not an alcohol bill.”

The biggest part of the bill for smaller breweries is the ability to have a taproom open while now staying under 50,000 barrels. The original language had the cap at 25,000, which forced some breweries in the state to be stuck at 24,999.

Harrison said Country Boy is just under 9,000 bbls now, but did not want to hit that ceiling too quickly as it continues to expand past its current 10-bbl system, which it brews on up to 18 times a week. Country Boy is expanding, with groundbreaking this week for a new facility that could see its capacity reach 20,000 bbls.

country boy brewing

“Just raising that cap is a logical progression,” Harrison said. “The scene is growing here. We are way way low [in number of breweries] and this [bill] shows that Kentucky wants to take care of the microbrewing industry and be progressive going forward.”

Along with Country Boy, Lexington neighbors West Sixth announced on Tuesday that it also is expanding with a small taproom in the downtown area, with hopes to be open in May.

The taproom will also host a small nano-brewery once the proper federal and state permitting is complete. This will allow West Sixth to brew specialty beers just for the taproom on a smaller scale — and to do more fun experimental beers that can’t currently be completed at its existing facility.

“It will give us a great location to help celebrate all the amazing festivals in downtown Lexington,” said co-founder Brady Barlow. “And [it] will also be a great opportunity to showcase Lexington craft beer to all of the tourists and convention goers who don’t ever make it out of downtown.”

Other parts of the new bill pertaining to breweries include a clean up of language pertaining to having employees consume beverages while at work for the purpose of quality control, education and product development. Also, a level of complexity was removed to let breweries sell their drinks and packages at festivals.

“We understand the framework of Prohibition and why that is there, but there are still archaic rules that needed to be changed,” Harrison said. “A lot of folks give Kentucky a bad rap … days like yesterday and the day before shows that we are making strides in modernization of craft beer. The general assembly is helping craft beer and also the rest of the alcohol industry.”

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