Progress made for Nevada craft breweries thanks to new law expanding production

Nevada craft breweries are going to be able to brew significantly more beer, thanks to a new law. But it also puts limits on retail sales.

Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Assembly Bill 431 into law June 5, which raises the amount a brew pub can manufacture from 15,000 barrels per calendar year to 40,000 barrels.

Breweries had pushed for the cap to be 60,000 in a separate Senate bill but had to negotiate down to 40,000, said Wyndee Forrest, CraftHaus Brewery owner and founder, as well as a board member of the Nevada Craft Brewers Association.

"The way it also hurts breweries is now we have a retail sales cap in our taprooms," she said. "... It was that 15,000 barrels cap. And now we can no longer sell more than 5,000 barrels annually to the community."

The new 40,000-barrel production cap remains lower than many neighboring states. Forrest said Nevada as a whole is behind much of the country for craft breweries, but that is slowly changing.

"I think Nevada's behind other states because our craft beer scene is behind compared to other states," she said. "We're starting to grow our craft brew community and craft brew culture."

One thing that is changing is more tourists are starting to request local brews when visiting Las Vegas. More places on the Las Vegas Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas are now offering beers from breweries around the valley.

"It's great to see now there's a demand for Nevada-manufactured products on the Las Vegas Strip -- whether it's beer, liquor or wine," Forrest said.

Local breweries, wineries and distilleries were also hoping to sell more of their product directly at events but that is still a work in progress.

When Sandoval signed AB 431 earlier this month, he noted that the bill allows brew pubs and distilleries to sell more of their products at festivals and farmers markets.

However, Forrest said breweries can sell their product directly to the event holder but not actually sell it themselves at the event.

"It only allows the brewery to transport the alcohol directly to that event," Forrest said. "It doesn't allow us to have direct sales to our community members in that farmers market setting or one-day event."

But despite the setbacks, Forrest said AB 431 is still progress.

"I see the bill passing, AB 431, as a positive step in the right direction," she said. "Last session when the breweries proposed a bill to increase the cap, it didn't even make it to the floor for the vote."

Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante Adams (D-Las Vegas) introduced the bill while Sen. James Settelmeyer (R-Gardnerville) was a joint sponsor in the Senate. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers of the Legislature.

"This will keep the momentum going in the future for the next session where we can iron out some of the things that aren't so restrictive to our industry," Forrest said.

She also said the community needs to request local beers and also contact their legislators to tell them local products matter.

"Our community needs to let our legislators know that this is important to them," Forrest said. "So you can contact your legislators and let them know that you'd like to see more Nevada-produced products, whether it's beer, wine or spirits."

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