The passing of SB1030, otherwise known as the “AZ Beer Bill,” is giving Arizona microbreweries even more of a reason to drink and be merry. Before SB1030, Arizona allowed a 40,000 barrel limit for breweries — any more than that and they wouldn’t be allowed to call themselves a retail establishment. If a brewery exceeded this cap limit, it would lose the right to operate as a restaurant or tasting room.
Arizona Craft Brewer’s Guild executive director Rob Fullmer is the man that brought this bill to life, working overtime in support of the 70 breweries that this bill would affect.
“Microbreweries that started up here didn’t have any political capital or clout,” he said. “A lot of people see this as a small business victory.”
Leah Huss opened up Huss Brewing Company with her husband Jeff in 2013 and said the passing of this bill is important because it allows her small business and others an opportunity to grow more than ever before.
“If there was going to be a cap, if things weren’t going to be progressed or move forward, it wouldn’t just hold us back; it would hold the big guys back like SanTan and Four Peaks,” she said. “There would have been no possibility down the road to open a restaurant.”
The bill also allows businesses to sell other local breweries’ beers without exceeding 20 percent of its annual sales. Fullmer said the goal behind this was to create collaboration among local breweries to further enrich the Arizona craft beer community.
“If I own a brewery and all I do is sell my own beer and I don’t have a license to do other things, this bill will allow me to sell another Arizona beer or another beer I like from somewhere else,” he said.
Huss explained that this is because the Arizona craft beer scene is such a welcoming and inviting environment.
“A lot of times you have a whole room full of (brewers) and the only common denominator is beer, but everybody gets along,” she said. “There’s a lot of good people here.” Fullmer added that SB1030 will attract new investors to the state as well as expand the Arizona craft beer community as a whole.
“You’re going to see breweries grow to distribute products on a wide scale basis,” he said. “You’re going to see more people from out of state look to Arizona as a place where they might want to relocate a second brewery or start a new brewery.”
The goal is to turn Arizona into a craft beer destination state like California or Colorado that prides itself on quality beer.
“We are already becoming a craft beer destination and I know we’re going to continue to grow in that respect,” Fullmer said. “The beer that we make and the things that we do here to be successful is based on the fact that some of us are in the desert, some of us are in small towns, but anything we do is a reflection of Arizona.”
Brand manager of Sleepy Dog Brewery in Tempe, Anthony Cocomello, said the bill wouldn’t have come to fruition without the help of Fullmer.
“The guy is busting his butt tremendously for everything that happens with the craft beer industry here. He’s gone above and beyond to get bills passed for this. His passion for this is just great as the people owning the brewery.”
Fullmer has no plans of slowing down now that SB1030 has been passed. On July 18, The Arizona Craft Brewers Guild is holding its Real, Wild and Woody Beer Festival indoors at the Phoenix Convention Center.
“We will try and integrate this event into something that the city looks forward to and treats on equal footing to some of the other events they have down there,” he said. “All of our events are going to have a component to it that’s way more in depth than having a glass of beer.”
Until then, Cocomello said local breweries have every right to clink glasses and celebrate.
“People have great recipes and great minds when it comes to craft beer in Arizona and hopefully it’s going to mean more and more jobs in Arizona,” he said.
• Jacob Goldstein, a senior at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, is an intern for GetOut. Contact him at 480-898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.