We recently reported on a change to Maryland law that woud allow breweries to self-distribute into Montgomery County. This wasn't the only legislative change in MoCo during the last legislative session, however. The passage of S.B. 310 allows for another big boon to breweries in Montgomery County: the ability to sell pints for consumption on premise and packages (e.g., six packs) to go.
Just like H.B. 140, this piece of legislation was initiated by breweries in Montgomery County. For S.B. 310, Paul Rinehart of Baying Hound Aleworks and Julie Verratti and the rest of the team from the forthcoming Denizens Brewing Company got involved and started the ball rolling on an important piece of legislation.
What specifically does S.B. 310 do? Verratti explains: "It allows a holder of a state level microbrewery class 7 licensee to also obtain a class D beer and wine license in Montgomery County. This is important because a class D beer and wine license does not require any food sales (although they are allowed) and allows for selling the products in packages to-go (6 packs etc.)." This is important, she notes, because, "prior to the law change on July 1, 2014 only class 5 breweries could pour pints without food in Montgomery County. Class 7 breweries were not able to do so."
We recently had a chance to catch up with Paul Rinehart of Baying Hound Aleworks to ask about his role in the push for this legislative change and other topics. Baying Hound celebrates its fourth birthday this Saturday, so be sure to check that out if you're in the area. Our lightly edited interview follows below.
DCBeer: How did the push for H.B. 140/S.B. 310 come about? Did a push to get pint sales happen quickly or did it take a while to build the argument?
Paul Rinehart: It was somewhat painless in regards to the county. One day, I got a phone call from the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control asking to come for a site visit. Kathy Durbin, the Chief of Licensure, Regulation & Education at the DLC, was actually quite supportive and receptive to suggestions. Our only bump in the road was zoning in the City of Rockville. Something like our tasting room hadn't been done before in the city, so it took some time for the zoning. After that small obstacle, we were able to really begin the process.
The rest of the process took less time than I thought. We did our alcohol awareness training, filed all the appropriate paperwork, and our hearing with the Liquor Board went pretty smoothly. It was a great honor to be the first Class 5 brewery to be granted a Class D Beer license.
D: What impact will the ability to sell pints have on Baying Hound? Legally you're currently allowed to pour six 3oz pours per person per visit, is that right?
PR: We can serve pints now. It's been great not having to just be able to do tours and then the six 3 oz samples. Personally, I think that in order to properly enjoy a beer, you need to have a proper pint in order to taste some of the nuances as it changes temperature from sip to sip. We have been serving pints up on weekends since April.
D: What do you think of the recent changes in MoCo beer laws? You've been operating in MoCo for a while under more stringent regulations; will this make business significantly easier? What is the potential impact on the MoCo craft beer scene?
PR: I get asked about Montgomery County laws and such plenty of times. Thing is, getting the brewery up and running had very little to do with the County. The only involvement we had was when we dropped off product at the DLC's warehouse. Then of course there was the Class D license, but that's really about it. The DLC has been extremely supportive. There is a lot going on in Montgomery County, and its not just beer. Just up the street from us, the first Montgomery County distillery is just about up and running. We're already talking about a collaborative project.
D: Any recent brews that you've put out that you're particularly proud of?
PR: One of the requirements I have of all my staff members is that they all have to brew a solo batch. They have to come up with the concept, formulation and of course execution. I have to say, I am extremely proud of my staff, they have proven to be very talented with the craft. We decided to cook up a little thing we call The Employee Brew-off. My staff has split into 3 teams and each has to brew a beer. When we tap it at the brewery, we will then let the public decide who wins. I think its a great way to get everyone here familiar with the brewing process so they can answer questions themselves. I've been very happy with a beer we dubbed, Old Baying Hound. Yes, it had that Chesapeake seasoning in it, but we also tossed in crab shells. It made for a rather tasty beer.
D: How have elected officials been helpful to you in your time brewing? Are they starting to come around on the value of craft beer as an industry? Anyone you want to call out as particularly helpful?
PR: I would like to thank everyone at the DLC who supported us, also Sam Arora and Tom Moore. Delegate Sam Arora was a tremendous influence on getting many of the new legislation in the county. Together with Denizens in Silver Spring, I like to think we made history. I think this will eventually lead to other breweries opening up in the county. I have the e-mails to prove it.
Thanks to Paul for his time, and happy birthday to Baying Hound!