The 2015 New Mexico Legislature has finally wrapped in Santa Fe, meaning I no longer get to play the 20 points for a senator game while driving to work. I’m totally kidding. No, what’s interesting to you craft beer fans, brewers, and purveyors, is that many alcohol, beer, wine, and cider bills went through this year’s regular session, bills that affect our breweries, cideries, and restaurants across New Mexico, which then of course directly affects us drinkers.
Well, the Dark Side Brew Crew knows that you’re all curious about what bills were passed, and what kind of impact they are going to have on our NM beer, wine, and cider scene. To find out, I conducted an interview with our Brewers Guild beer ambassador Chris Goblet, a man on the front lines, down in the trenches, with gas mask and bayonet. I sent him my questions early this week via email, because, as you know, the man has many places he needs to be, and sometimes all at once. However, he was kind enough to take a break from working on Bike & Brew to answer my questions, so that you know where our industry stands and where it’s going.
DSBC: The legislative session just wrapped. Overall, how do you feel about how everything went this year?
Goblet: I was truly impressed by the response we received at the Round House. The more time I spent there, the more I realized that New Mexico craft beer is really making progress both in the rural areas and in the metro (areas). There were very few people who did not have some connection to our industry, and many folks were truly rooting for us along the way. The nice thing about beer is that it is totally bipartisan. Folks like to root for a winner and the industry on the whole is making great strides forward. We were very pleased that all five of our key legislative items (mentioned below) were passed by the Senate and the House … unanimously.
DSBC: It looks like we had quite a few alcohol, beer, wine, and cider industry related bills that were proposed in this 2015 session. Can you tell us about the important bills that passed and were signed by Governor (Susana) Martinez?
Goblet: There were a significant number of alcohol-related bills that passed this session, and I believe that had something to do with the Liquor Control Act Task Force that was convened in 2014. Around 40 or 50 of us met over the summer to put together recommendations to enhance and improve the Liquor Control Act. Many of the ideas that came out of the Task Force were good enough to merit the legislation that was passed. We met at least a dozen times over the summer, so I know that many of us in the industry were motivated to pass our bills. It was nice to see our hard work paid off and our recommendations were taken seriously. I even heard a legislator complain about all the liquor bills.
Certainly we did not fix the Liquor Control Act (60-3A-1, NMSA 1978) with the legislation that was passed, but we did make an honest attempt to upgrade and evolve the document with the support of the Alcohol & Gaming Division. (It was) not a bad use of time, if you ask me.
DSBC: What will their impact be on our brewers, beer-serving establishments, and our NM beer, wine, and cider industry?
Goblet: Well, it is always hard to tell what the outcome will be from passing a bill, but here are a few of my thoughts:
1. More product choice. SB 238 will allow brewpubs with a restaurant license to now package their beer. This mean seeing Second St., Blue Corn, Chama River, Turtle Mountain and others can be served in bottle or can or on tap at your local restaurant. These breweries can now self-distribute.
2. Local cider and wine will now be readily available at your local brewery and brewpub. This offers a great alternative for the gluten-free or non-beer drinkers in your party and keeps promoting local manufacturing.
3. SB 440 will allow wineries and breweries to host private events and functions and offer both beer and wine. The best example I can think of is a wedding. Now if a couple wants a local brewery or winery to host their reception they can offer beer, wine and cider, which before was not possible. We think this could open up a number of opportunities for specialty events for our brewery members and the wine industry.
4. HB 243 makes growlers our God-given beer drinking right, and we don’t need to have any concern that they could be compromised. Growlers have been a point of controversy in some other states, but this bill ensures that breweries will always have the right to fill them for off-site consumption.
5. Breweries will now be able to open a third off-premise location. Formerly every brewery was allowed one tasting room directly adjacent their manufacturing facility and two off-site tap rooms. This third tap room means that Marble, Bosque, Blue Corn, Chama River and others can look to open an additional location. We hope to see more tap rooms popping up around the state with this legislation, and more jobs and more beer available.
6. SB 471 allows for Alternating Proprietorship, which is a cool mechanism that would allow a small brewery to rent a portion of a larger brewery to increase production. Let’s say a small brewpub has a very popular beer they want to brew a larger batch, they can now go over to a larger brewery and use their facility to brew a big batch of beer and keep the books separate and clean. A great example is when Avery was moving to their new facility the used some tanks at New Belgium to make sure their White Rascal was available on tap and in the can. It is a federal best practice that allows for this arrangement between brewers.
DSBC: If some of the bills have not yet been signed, do you foresee any problems?
Goblet: We will be working with Governor and her office to explain all the bills and sincerely ask for her support. At this time we are unaware of any opposition to our bills, but you never really know. The fact that most of our bills are about manufacturing, and not consumptions, we believe will help us in our request for final approval from the Round House.
DSBC: Can you tell us a little about some of the some of the people you worked with to get these bills proposed?
Goblet: To begin, the Guild Board of Directors was essential in setting the path for success and keeping the ship headed in the right direction. They are to be thanked. We also had some great support from the distributors in getting these bills through the many committees. Our lobbyist, Karin Foster, was a huge help in just showing us the ropes at the Round House and keeping us on track during the 60-day session. We probably could not have managed this without her.
Behind the scenes, the Legislature has a division called Legislative Council Services, and Monica Ewing was the lawyer assigned to help us draft our bills in the proper form. She did an amazing job of researching the history of the Liquor Control Act and helped us put together the strongest and simplest bills possible. Finally, it was our list of sponsoring Senators and Representatives who did their best to keep our bills top of mind with the leadership and who stood on our behalf in committee meetings and on the House and Senate floor to present our bills.
DSBC: With a lot of majority votes going our way, what do you think this sort of success in legislation means for the future of the NM beer industry on the whole?
Goblet: I think we were all very surprised how universal the support was for craft brewing in New Mexico, and that bodes well for the industry at large. There were so many supportive people at the Round House that were rooting for us. It kept our spirits high whenever we hit a bump in the road or got worried about the ticking clock. Republicans and Democrats, it really didn’t matter what party, they simply wanted to help us keep the momentum of the industry.
I also think we didn’t realize how many people are watching and keeping track of our success and expansion. The craft beer industry is one of the fastest growing manufacturing sectors in the state, and we’re going to see more breweries, more taprooms and more jobs … not to mention more taxes collected by the state. The fact that our booming beer industry can be a hallmark for the New Mexico economy and reputation is a great thing. We didn’t have to explain the impact our industry has, from taxes, to jobs, to tourism and for community pride, (as) it was already in the minds of those we were asking for support. I think it is a great sign.
As a person who comes to New Mexico having lived in many other places, I am always impressed by the way people support LOCAL in this state. We know we have problems and we know our state is imperfect, but at the end of the day there is an immense pride in the things we do have, in the products that we make that set our state apart from others. To be part of an award-winning industry that is bursting at the seams to grow so quickly, and to know New Mexicans have our back, that is what makes this process so exciting to be a part of.
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No colorful commentary on my part. I’ll end with this: Much thanks to the Guild Board of Directors, the Liquor Control Task Force, the distributors, and those fighting for our industry. A special thanks to Chris Goblet for tirelessly doing what he does every day. And thanks to our NM craft brewing industry, for being something worth fighting for. I’m not political, I prefer Imperials to sessions of any kind, but this year, let’s raise our pints to all those that represent us in one way or another, and buy another round for the Round House. See you next Growler Day!
For more #CraftBeer info, and more @NMDarksideBC news, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro.
If you have any further questions for Mr. Goblet about what it all means, please post them in the comments sections below, or email us at email@example.com and we’ll represent you.