Archive for the ‘Beer and Government’ Category

Good news from the state legislature? What sorcery is this?!

Glorious news from Santa Fe, as House Bill 398, the last remaining piece of legislation aimed at increasing the excise tax on local breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries, has been tabled in committee. HB398 was squashed by a 5-2 vote in the House Health & Human Services Committee this morning.

The bill seemed to stand little chance of passing after its companion piece, Senate Bill 314, was tabled in committee weeks ago. With the legislature’s website currently offline, further details were not available, but in the end the bill was tabled, and that is all that matters.

A huge thanks to NM Brewers Guild director John Gozigian for sending us the good news.

Hopefully in the waning days of this session, the governor and legislature can agree upon a budget that helps fund New Mexico schools, creates jobs, and protects local business. For now, though, the breweries that are already taxed at twice the national average will not be taxed any further. They will still be able to grow, create jobs, and help our state’s economy beyond simply paying more taxes.

Now we can just get back to enjoying beer and writing about it. That, more than anything, is the best possible way to start our weekend.

Well, that and attending the Steel Bender Brewyard event tonight. Look for our full preview on the newest brewery in the metro area early next week!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The bills have passed! Thank you, Governor Martinez and everyone who works in this building!

The folks in the Senate have done good, but the situation is far from over.

Pardon the delay, computers/wireless were down at work for most of the morning. Here is the official statement from the New Mexico Brewers Guild on last night’s committee hearing regarding SB314:

SB 314 was finally debated yesterday evening, beginning at 8 p.m., in a hearing that resulted in the bill being tabled by a majority vote of senators on the committee. This is good news; this means that the committee members agreed that the proposed tax rate was thoroughly unreasonable and made the bill unviable as written.

Another point that came up in the hearing was the tone and tenor of rhetoric coming from some opponents of SB 314. To be clear, the Guild, and the brewers of New Mexico we represent, are committed to a policy of civil discourse in all of our interactions with those on either side of issues that impact our industry. Passion is a useful tool; passion tempered with civility and reason is even more powerful.

Looking ahead to HB 398, the House bill that mirrors SB 314, we’ll continue to work with our many supporters on both sides of the aisle in the New Mexico Legislature. A hearing on HB 398 has not yet been scheduled, but we will keep you up to date on developments as they occur.

All right, so the good news is SB314 is basically dead, and it seems reasonable to hope that the members of the House committee will vote the same way on HB398.

The Guild has a point, though, in that second graph, to please keep things civil when contacting your representatives to voice your opposition to these bills. The supporters of the bill have claimed the moral high ground, so logical discourse, not passion, is the true key to defeating them.

We will have more info as events continue in Santa Fe.

Until then, well, by golly …

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Spread the word!

Today is the day SB314 goes before a committee, which could vote to keep it from ever reaching the Senate floor.

The seemingly glacial pace of the state legislature is thawing, with the now-infamous Senate Bill 314 finally getting its hearing today (Monday) before the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. The bill is listed second on the docket, though it does not necessarily mean it will be heard in that order. There are eight bills in total scheduled to be heard today.

Based on our communication with the New Mexico Brewers Guild, this could be the end of the line for the bill that seeks to substantially raise the excise tax on beer and other forms of alcohol. Of course, it does not mean the fight is over, as House Bill 398 has also been introduced, offering up almost the exact same wording.

The sponsors of the two bills, Albuquerque-based Senator Cisco McSorley (D) and Las Cruces-based Representative Joanne Ferrary, will be hosting a press conference in Santa Fe around the same time SB314 will be learning its fate. In a surprise to no one, this presser was announced by Peter DeBenedittis, the leader of the group Alcohol Taxes Save Lives & Money. It has always been his group, which seeks to eventually ban alcohol in New Mexico, that has been behind these bills.

Here is the full text of the email that DeBenedittis sent to the media (we were not included, but another reporter was kind enough to send it to us). It lays out his reasoning, though it does not include just where he gets all of his statistics from, but basically, if you like to go out and drink beer, you are painted as his enemy.

Please join Senator Cisco McSorley (D-Bernalillo) & Rep. Joanne Farrary (D-Dona Ana) for a Press Conference on their bills to address the deaths, health problems being subsided by New Mexico’s low alcohol taxes.

The Press Conference will be held at 10:30 AM in Room 318 of the Capitol on Monday, Feb.20.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, New Mexico leads the nation in people drinking themselves to death. 1 in 6 working age New Mexicans die from excessive drinking.  SB 314 and HB 398 would raise alcohol taxes 25¢ per drink, leading to a 10% reduction in alcohol consumption. The immediate health benefits for New Mexicans will be:

52 Lives Saved the first year
More than 300 acts of violence prevented
Over 12,000 cases of alcohol abuse and dependence prevented annually
Over 7,000 fewer underage drinkers a year.

Data from Research and Polling shows 76% of New Mexicans support these bills.

Right now state taxpayers foot an $800 Million a year bill for the extra police, court cases, detention, ambulances and medical care caused by excessive drinking. These bills help correct the problem by raising $160 Million in revenue from those causing the problems. Half of New Mexicans haven’t had a drink in the last 30 days and won’t be affected by an alcohol tax increase. Responsible drinkers will pay an average of less then $10 a year more, while the 19% of New Mexicans who drink excessively will pay 3/4ths of the increased tax.

Please join Senator McSorley and Representative Farrary at 10:30 AM on Monday, February 20 in room 318 to hear their statements and answer your questions.

Blessings,
Peter D.

Peter DeBenedittis, Ph.D.
Director, Alcohol Taxes Save Lives & Money

We would love to see where he gets some of that data. The 76 percent support the bills part is bad enough. Honestly, though, half of the people in New Mexico have not had an alcoholic in the last 30 days? Is that just adults or is he including children in that?

Also, for those who have criticized our coverage of this issue by arguing that breweries and other entities must pay their share to help fund our schools, take note that nowhere above does it say these new taxes will go to education. Instead, they are aimed at covering one-fifth of the total cost of excessive drinking in New Mexico, or so DeBenedittis wrote.

Due to our day jobs and such, it is unlikely that any of the Crew will be in attendance. If anyone out there is able to go to the press conference, please, record the session and send us the audio. We will give you a Crew supporter T-shirt for free or buy you a couple pints. Other media entities may be present to take notes, and hopefully someone from the Guild will be there to represent the breweries, but the more sources we have, the better.

We will monitor how these events turn out today and report back to all of you as soon as we have the confirmed information.

Stay vigilant, craft beer lovers.

— Stoutmeister

SB2382

Yup, they’re at it again in Santa Fe, with members of the House of Representatives introducing a bill to raise the excise tax.

It appears that the old cliche, monkey see, monkey do, is alive and well at the New Mexico State Legislature. House Bill 398 has been introduced as the mirror version of Senate Bill 314, with both seeking to make serious increases to the excise tax on multiple forms of liquor, including craft beer.

This bill has been sponsored by representatives Joanne Ferrary, Miguel Garcia, and Rudy Martinez, a trio of Democrats. Ferrary is from Las Cruces, Garcia is from Albuquerque, and Martinez is from Bayard, a small town near Silver City. It will head to the House Business & Industry Committee, though no date for a hearing has been scheduled.

Just like SB314, it will raise the excise tax from 41 cents per gallon to $3.08 for all beer produced above 15,000 barrels per year. That would likely cap any future growth by rapidly expanding breweries such as La Cumbre and Bosque. It might also force Santa Fe and Marble, both of which are already producing more than 15,000 barrels, to rethink their strategy going forward. The only difference between the two bills that we can see (note, we are not lawyers, so there could be subtle bits lost in the legalese of the seemingly identical paragraphs) is that there is no mention of cider in HB398. Hooray for that, at least, though these bills change so often they might add that again later.

The New Mexico Brewers Guild has been working hard to stop SB314 from even getting past the committee stage, but now it will have to double its efforts to stop HB398. As we have with SB314, we will keep an eye out for news about this new bill and share it with all of you. If anyone out there hears about anything, even a town hall involving the bill sponsors, please email us at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com as soon as possible.

In the meantime, keep supporting our craft breweries the best way you can, by attending their events and drinking their beer.

Stay vigilant, New Mexico.

— Stoutmeister

Thank you to the Guild for sending out this extremely helpful infographic. Legalese translated to English!

Thank you to the Guild for sending out this extremely helpful infographic. Legalese translated to English!

The Friday revelation that members of the New Mexico state legislature were pursuing an increase in excise taxes caught many of us by surprise. Senate Bill 314, an updated version of the same legislation proposed by the neo-prohibitionist group Alcohol Taxes Save Lives and Money, was dropped on an unsuspecting public by State Senator Cisco McSorley, a Democrat whose district includes Nob Hill.

McSorley invited the the public to a town hall meeting at Nob Hill church on Sunday afternoon, prior to the Super Bowl, to discuss all the items he and Democrats from the House of Representatives are dealing with during the current 60-day session. A crowd estimated at 300 people, many of them wearing New Mexico Brewers Guild shirts reading “Support Local Beer,” showed up.

It was contentious from the get-go. As McSorley began speaking of how SB314 would not harm local breweries, La Cumbre owner Jeff Erway yelled “Liar!” prompting a hostile response from the senator, who threatened to have him thrown out if Jeff interrupted again.

“Excuse me! EXCUSE ME, SIR! If you do not shut up, you’re going to have to leave!” McSorley retorted. “You’re allowed to ask questions, but you have to be polite! Do you understand? Do you understand?”

There was no security present, so one had to wonder if McSorley expected his mostly elderly supporters to help, or if he actually expected the police to show up if called. Things calmed down from there as he got on with the rest of the SB314 portion of his speech.

“The point is, it’s $800 million that it costs the state in DWIs, judges, prison, jail, all those things, plus it goes onto your insurance,” he said, clearly stating his case that an increased excise tax is to pay for the state’s DWI problem, as well as making it personal by bringing up people’s own insurance premiums.

“At any rate, I’ve excluded the local breweries from this tax,” he said, to a smattering of applause. “OK? Because, I want them to develop, I want them to have jobs, I want those jobs developed.”

For those who need a refresher course on just what SB314 is and what it will do to our breweries, see the graphic created by the Brewers Guild above. Or, just take these as the key points of the bill as relating to our craft breweries in New Mexico:

(UPDATE: After consulting with several sources, we have come to the conclusion that the mentions of 8 cents per gallon for breweries under 10,000 barrels of production and 28 cents for breweries between 10,000 and 15,000 are the existing excise tax rates, which will not go up under SB314. Translating government legalese to English is hard, people.)

  • Breweries above 15,000 barrels of production per year are subject to a whopping increase of their excise tax from 41 cents to $3.08 per gallon. Santa Fe and Marble would both be hammered by this, as would other breweries looking to surpass it like La Cumbre and, down the line, Bosque.
  • All of these tax increases would then go up even higher, as tied to the federal inflation rate, every four years.
  • The excise tax on cider would also go to $3.08 per gallon, which would all but wipe out the cider industry in this state, including for breweries that produce cider such as Tractor, Boxing Bear, and Red Door.

After going over multiple other bills, a mix of those McSorley thinks will never get by Governor Martinez (whose name was booed every time he said it) and those he said he hopes will get passed. Eventually, after the state reps had their chances to speak, McSorley got back to SB314.

Jeff and an unidentified craft beer supporter were both able to ask more questions. McSorley answered both, though clearly to neither man’s satisfaction, dodging definitive answers in a classic political style.

“All I know is that the industry has been growing,” he told Jeff. “Go to page two of the bill, you will see that you’re excluded, you won’t be touched. I’m thinking about changing the amounts because Santa Fe Brewing is right at the top there, so I’m thinking about making it a little bit bigger for Santa Fe Brewery (sic). … I’m looking at other states who have done this, and we’re looking to see how they’re doing it, and if we can figure out a way, we’ll do it. Is that fair?”

McSorley saying he may raise the number “a little bit” for SFBC will not cut it. SFBC is planning to reach 50,000 barrels in the next couple years with a final goal of 200,000 barrels, 10 times its current output. Raising those numbers “a little bit” will not nearly be enough. It still goes back to the Guild saying this bill will discourage growth by local breweries, and basically stop them where they are now.

When Jeff challenged McSorley’s answer, he snapped back (again) and repeated his claim that the bill would not harm breweries one bit.

“The local breweries are being left alone, except I might raise the limit (of barrel production) on what is the definition of a local brewery,” McSorley said.

Whether he has decided to ignore the Brewers Association guidelines of what constitutes a craft brewery or is simply unaware, well, that is a question for another time.

The mostly older crowd that attended the town hall. By the time it started, there was almost no room to move in the north room of the church.

The mostly older crowd that attended the town hall. By the time it started, there was almost no room to move in the north room of the church.

A soft-spoken person asked the next question, which gave McSorley a chance to show off his tactical plan of attack against his critics and to drum up public support for the bill. The mostly older, mostly Democratic audience laughed and applauded.

“This question was: How do we make sure it’s fair to everybody? Good question,” he said. “I’ll tell you this, you all know that 80 percent of the alcohol is drunk by 20 percent of the drinkers in this country. It’s mostly the cheap alcohol that they’re drinking, and especially young people. We also know, from national surveys and from state (surveys), that young people are very sensitive to cost. So, the more it costs, the less they drink, it’s true. Instead of buying a 12-pack, they buy a six-pack on Friday night with their fake IDs.”

McSorley has made it clear that he believes, or at least publicly states, that the DWI problem is caused by young people with fake IDs. This makes it an old versus young issue, and since the majority of people who vote tend to be older, it again shows off his strategy. He is making it a moral issue, a fiscal issue with education at the center, and now a sort of it-will-stop-bad-young-people issue.

A final supporter challenged McSorley to the wording of his bill, but McSorley dodged the question and repeatedly told the supporter to just read it.

After the town hall concluded, Jeff and McSorley continued their dialogue, in a much calmer and more peaceful tone.

Other people in the crowd approached the clusters of craft beer supporters, including myself and members of the Tractor Brewing staff. One woman, who identified herself only as a teacher with Albuquerque Public Schools, lambasted us for “trying to dominate the discussion.” She said schools are in desperate need of money, and this tax will pay for those needs. She also claimed that teachers make up the majority of craft beer drinkers (really? Wow) and that if the breweries and their supporters do not back off, teachers will en masse boycott breweries.

While what she said might sound silly, do not be surprised if this becomes a new tactic in the supporters of the bill. The number of New Mexicans who want to ban alcohol, even as a means of fighting our DWI problem, are still small. Most are smart enough to realize that prohibition never works. But, switching tactics and making big, bad alcohol the enemy, and poor, suffering teachers and children the victims here, is unfortunately a brilliant strategy. McSorley hinted in his comments that he plans to see the tax money go to schools, and expect him to push that agenda forward.

Save the children at the expense of business. A dirty, underhanded tactic? You betcha, but this is politics, and we cannot be surprised that they would stoop this low.

Throwing more money at the DWI problem will not make it go away. Putting repeat offenders behind bars for good, improving treatment programs for first- and second-time offenders, and improving public transportation throughout the metro area (not just along Central) are all ways to combat what is a real problem. Blaming breweries for the problem and taking away money and jobs is not the answer.

The good news, according to the Guild, is that five of the nine committee members who will hear SB314 have been allies of our craft beer industry in the past. If they hold fast against people trying to moralize a tax increase, SB314 will die before it ever reaches the senate floor. Once there, it remains to be seen which way the political winds are blowing. By all accounts, the Governor will veto any tax increase that Democrats put on her desk.

Spread the word!

Spread the word!

This cannot come down to an alcohol versus kids debate. The breweries, as well as our state’s wineries, cideries, and distilleries, will lose that fight. It has to be a debate about jobs. If SB314 passes, it will stop brewery growth, and job growth, dead in its tracks. It would only offer a short-term revenue boost to the state, because some larger breweries would move away, while smaller ones would simply close up shop. There are nearly 70 craft breweries operational in New Mexico, employing hundreds of locals, and supporting numerous other local businesses and charities. They are generating revenue into the hundreds of millions.

For a one-year tax boost, would this state really wipe out one of its only growing industries? One that is locally owned and now becoming a part of the tourism this state desperately needs, it should be added. Somehow we hope, no, we believe cooler heads will prevail and SB314 will never come to pass.

In two years, though, Martinez will be gone, Democrats will still control the legislature and likely have one of their own in the governor’s office. If New Mexico has not solved its financial woes by then, all bets are off for every industry in this state.

We will keep everyone as updated as possible, starting with the date the committee hearing will be held. We also hope to sit down with Jeff and other key brewery and Guild personnel in the near future so that we may understand this situation even better than we do now.

In the meantime, just keep supporting your favorite breweries in any way you can. Hopefully this storm will pass soon and we can just get back to arguing about who has the best IPA and nicest patio and so on.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The bills have passed! Thank you, Governor Martinez and everyone who works in this building!

Another bill that impacts craft breweries goes up for a state legislature committee vote this week.

The good folks out at Ale Republic alerted us to the fact that the first notable piece of legislation that affects craft breweries comes up this Thursday in Santa Fe. A new reciprocity bill is due for a vote before the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, which meets at 1:30 p.m. in Room 309.

Representative Stephanie Garcia Richard has introduced a bill to expand the existing reciprocity between New Mexico breweries and wineries to now include craft distilleries as well. The current law allows breweries to also sell wine, as long as it is made in the state, without requiring a wine license. In turn, wineries can add craft beer taps from local breweries. If the new bill passes, distilleries such as Broken Trail, Left Turn, Santa Fe Spirits, and more will have the same ability. At present, a distillery can only have beer on tap if it has a small brewer license.

Basically, you could go to a single New Mexico liquor-producing entity and you could have a mixed drink, a glass of wine, and a pint of beer, so long as all are made within the state. (We would recommend you do not drink all three without a designated driver/Uber/Lyft/taxi at hand.) The full text of the proposal can be found here, but be forewarned, it is written in that nebulous legalese that has befouled many a person.

Five state representatives sit on the committee — Eliseo Lee Alcon (District 6/Cibola and McKinley Counties), Deborah A. Armstrong (17/Bernalillo), Patricia Roybal Caballero (13/Bernalillo), Bob Wooley (66/Chaves, Lea, Roosevelt), and Monica Youngblood (68/Bernalillo). If any of them are your state rep, and if you support the passing of this bill, please contact them and encourage them to vote yes. Use this handy feature to find your rep and contact him or her.

If you have any questions, contact us, or you can contact Patrick Johnson of Ale Republic at patrick@alerepublic.com.

Once we find out the results of the committee vote, we will share it here.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The bills have passed! Thank you, Governor Martinez and everyone who works in this building!

The State of New Mexico may be on the verge of severely damaging our craft brewing industry.

The State of New Mexico is at it again. Certain legislators want to raise the taxes on alcohol to help balance the budget. While we would all like to see them actually pull off a balanced budget, this sort of move would be disastrous to our breweries, wineries, and distilleries.

La Cumbre owner Jeff Erway shared his letter to the editor, which he sent to the Albuquerque Journal after the editorial staff there (which is way more conservative than you might otherwise know for a newspaper) said it was in favor of the tax. Jeff did not know if the Journal would actually publish his letter, so he shared it with us as well. We have reprinted it here in full, because Jeff can describe just what a terrible idea this tax increase is far better than we ever could.

Read this carefully, let us know what you think, and if you agree with Jeff, it might be time to start contacting your state representative and telling him/her to vote no should this bill come up in the legislative session in early 2017.

Dear Editor,

I was alarmed today to read of your support on raising taxes on all alcohol in our state. Currently, the excise tax on wine is $1.70/bottle, $6.06/bottle on spirits, and $.41/gallon on beer. That makes us #5, #21, and #12 respectively on those taxes in the country in a state whose GDP per capita ranks #39, and whose economy ranks #48 overall. *

Enacting the proposed $.25/drink tax would bring the tax on a bottle of wine to $2.95, the tax on a bottle of spirits to $12.06 (that’s double what it currently is) and the tax on a gallon of beer to $3.08/gallon. To put that into perspective, you are supporting raising the state tax on wine to the 2nd highest in the country, liquor taxes to the 4th highest rate in the land, and beer to the very highest rate in the country, 2.5x the current holder of that title, Tennessee.**

Let’s keep in perspective that breweries, wineries, distilleries and their respective wholesalers and retailers already pay corporate income tax at both the State and National level. The owners and employees of these businesses pay payroll taxes and capital gains taxes at both the State and National level. The retailers already pay a state and local sales tax on all sales. And the producers and wholesalers already pay Excise taxes at both the State and National level.

Might I also add that the craft breweries, craft wineries and craft distilleries are some of the only sectors for job growth in this State? In the past 6 years, since my brewery opened, breweries have added over 3,400 jobs and over $127,000,000 in wages/year to the State’s economy. Economic impact to the state will clear $450,000,000 in 2016. ***

You cannot tax state businesses into prosperity.

Despite what MADD would have you believe, this is simply a neo-prohibitionist proposal that is aimed at limiting peoples access to alcohol, and it will hurt the State’s breweries, wineries and distilleries most by making their products more expensive to the end consumer. You will take a local product that is viewed as an affordable luxury and make it unaffordable to our already cash strapped residents. Instead of supporting local businesses, the consumer will be economically forced to support the very largest of producers who can afford to keep their prices and margins at rock bottom. As has been shown time and time again, this will not change the consumption of the heaviest drinkers, just which alcohol is purchased and therefore where that alcohol was produced. According to a study by Willard Manning et. Al in 1995, moderate drinkers are far and away the most guided by the price of alcohol and will simply choose to not drink when prices become absorbent.

This proposal is a job killer to the 3 very industries that are actually currently growing in NM. It is a shot in the foot of the State’s economy and employment.

I would in no way ask our state to cut funding to schools, health nor public safety, and I personally would not be completely opposed to a consumption tax proposal. That being said, the number of pet projects that are going on around the state that have not been ear-marked for cuts is somewhat appalling and yet your editorial board sees it fit to raise that taxes on the few industries that are working.

I wonder how the Journal and its employees would feel if the state proposed a rise on taxes for print advertising. The journal is taxed at a far lower level than the liquor industry is. No, definitely a better idea to raise taxes on the only industries that are adding jobs. We definitely don’t want anyone getting the idea that NM’s economy has any ray of hope left in it.

Yours truly,

Jeffrey S. Erway, Founder and President

La Cumbre Brewing Co.

*businessinsider.com
http://www.businessinsider.com/state-economy-ranking-july-2015-2015-7/#1-north-dakota-555555555555555551

**taxfoundation.org
http://taxfoundation.org/blog/how-high-are-wine-taxes-your-state
http://taxfoundation.org/blog/map-spirits-excise-tax-rates-state-2014

***Estimates based on 2014 Economic Impact Study. https://www.brewersassociation.org/statistics/economic-impact-data/

* * * * *

Thank you to Jeff for sharing this. Clearly, craft beer is threatened in New Mexico. Now is the time to stand up and say no to this tax increase.

The Crew will keep you all updated as this story continues to develop.

— Stoutmeister

The bills have passed! Thank you, Governor Martinez and everyone who works in this building!

The bills have passed! Thank you, Governor Martinez and everyone who works in this building!

Late last night the Crew was informed by the NM Brewers Guild that Governor Susana Martinez has signed all three of the major bills that affect our breweries. Well, that is just one giant relief. After all, we had spent the better part of two weeks singing the praises of these bills and yet none of them had technically been put into law yet. Now they will be and our breweries will be better for it.

Rather than just do a total rehash of what we’ve already written (plus, I’m on my break at work as I type this), here are the links to our original story on the bills and the impact they will have on the various breweries who responded to our inquiries about them.

Luke interviewed Chris Goblet of the Brewers Guild for the initial story on what the bills are all about and what they mean.

I talked to Gabe Jensen about what the bills could mean for Bosque Brewing in the near future and beyond.

To follow that, I asked Jeff Erway at La Cumbre, Ken Carson at Nexus, and Skye Devore at Tractor about what the bills could mean to their breweries.

And finally Luke chatted with Rod Tweet of Second Street and Nico Ortiz at Turtle Mountain, who were the driving force behind SB238 and its potential impact on all brewery-restaurants.

So whether you agree with the rest of her politics or not, we think on this one occasion you can raise a pint to the Governor this weekend as a show of gratitude.

Rapid-fire weekend goings on

Don’t fret if you’re wondering what to do with yourself this weekend, it is jam-packed full of fun at the breweries and elsewhere.

Up at the Balloon Fiesta Park on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. is the Great New Mexico Food Truck and Craft Beer Festival. It costs just $5 to get in, though you will of course have to pay for the food and beer you purchase.

The full list of participating trucks: (courtesy of the event’s Facebook page)
• Adoughbe Pizza
• Artisan Valley Smokehouse
• Basil’s Home Cooking
• CalleOcho
• Castaneda’s Kitchen and Catering
• Europa Roaming Kitchen
• Gedunk Food Truck
• The Greek Geek
• Hot off the Press
• Hot Stuff Hawaiian Shave Ice
• Joe Mama’s Famous Foods
• Karibu Café
• Kimo’s Hawaiian BBQ
• The Lunch Box
• Mama Bee’s Cuisine and Catering
• Nosh Wagon
• O’Bean’s Coffee Cruiser
• Oh Kay Cee’s BBQ Truck
• Street Food Boulevard
• Street Food Institute

On the beer side of things, Abbey Brewing, De La Vega Pecan Grill Brewing, Ponderosa Brewing, Rio Grande/Sierra Blanca Brewing, and Santa Fe Brewing will all have beer available. There will also be some beers from Sam Adams, including a few specialty taps.

We are hoping that all of you who wanted to attend Tart at Heart at Sister on Saturday afternoon got your tickets, because they are sold out.

On the new beer front, the winner of the National IPA Challenge, Scale Tipper, is back at Bosque’s two Albuquerque locations. Get over there and get it as fast as you can, because we guarantee you, it will sell out fast.

There will of course be live music and other events at breweries across town such as La Cumbre, Marble (both ABQ locations), and Tractor Wells Park. For a list of who’s performing where, check their respective entries in The Week Ahead in Beer.

And finally …

The Albuquerque Isotopes season opened Thursday night. In a short window of time that I had before the game (I write about the team, in case any of you have somehow missed that; you can find my stories via my other Twitter page, @TopesWriter), I did a quick check of the beer taps on the concourse.

Ugh.

About the best thing I saw besides the standard Isotopes Slammin’ Amber and Triple-A Blonde was a tap for Sierra Nevada Hoppy Lager. There wasn’t even a visible Lagunitas tap. Now, the Topes don’t always activate all their tap stations for weekday games, so I’ll try to do a more thorough investigation this weekend.

In the end, I have no official word as to why our minor-league stadium is so craft beer-deficient (word on the street is there is some sort of exclusive rights or distributor issue, but I’ve never been able to get anyone working for the Isotopes on the record). Even the Kansas City Royals are pouring Santa Fe Java Stout this season. The bleepin’ Royals! In Missouri! Again, ugh.

It appears that new Marble taproom that will be built across the street in the football stadium parking lot can’t get here soon enough. And yes, the Crew will be following up on that huge story when we can.

Gotta get back to the day job before I head over to the ballpark for the night job. And at some point maybe I’ll get a pint of Scale Tipper for myself. Maybe.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

SB2382

They passed something useful for a change! Thanks, NM Legislature. (Photo courtesy of capitolreportnewmexico.com)

As many of you know, the legislative session closed several weeks ago, and we ran a rather popular article about it because, despite the session being called a rather “dead session,” our craft beer industry had quite a lively time at the wake. Since then, the Crew has taken to hunting down more information on the various bills to explain them a little bit better, as well as give you, beer readers, some insider info on what they mean to our brewers, breweries, and future of our industry here in New Mexico. Recently I’ve been in communication with Rod Tweet of Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe, and Nico Ortiz, owner of Turtle Mountain Brewing Co. in Rio Rancho, about the bill they partnered on — SB238, or as it’s lovingly referred to around Second Street Brewery as “Rod’s Best Bill.”

NMDSBC: Tell us a little about SB238.

Tweet: The bill, SB238, was introduced for us by Senator Sue Wilson-Beffort. It passed through all Senate and House committees and both Senate and House floor votes at this year’s legislative session.

NMDSBC: Was there any resistance?

Tweet: There was some push-back from the distributor lobbyists early on, but that eventually dissipated. The bill is now on Governor (Susana) Martinez’s desk awaiting her signature, and then it becomes the law of the land, starting July 1. So, we are almost there, I hope.

NMDSBC: What does this particular bill do?

Tweet: In New Mexico we actually have it better than many states because as a holder of a Brewer’s License (which we have), you can also get a Wholesalers License and self-distribute, UNLESS you also have a Restaurant Beer/Wine License. Most brewpubs have the Restaurant License essentially so that they can serve wine by the glass, which is often necessary to run a successful restaurant. So us “brewpub” brewers are excepted from the ability to self-distribute, even though we do indeed have a Small Brewer’s license.

What SB238 does is it changes that, so that we brewpubs with Brewer’s Licenses and Restaurant Beer/Wine Licenses can also obtain a Wholesalers License the same as any other brewer.

SB2381

See, look, it’s right there in print.

NMDSBC: And what makes this really important to your business?

Tweet: We think this is really important for a lot of reasons. Brewpubs in both small town markets and larger, more competitive markets need to have the ability for brand building in their local area. For brewpubs like ourselves, of which I think there is about 14 in the state, the ability to self-distribute draft and/or package product in our local markets at relatively modest volumes is extremely valuable for brand building and visibility, and also to turn extra production capacity into cash-flow. It can also drive barrelage at the outset of an expansion, which again is helpful for cash-flow while volume ramps up to the point where the economics support statewide distribution and a larger wholesaler relationship.

It would allow us to wholesale across the state. That’s kind of big, though. There’s a place for wholesalers, certainly, but for us smaller people we want to get started with it and build up some account base and relationships, and do our own brand building in the beginning until the scale gets big enough to where it really makes sense for a wholesaler to take it on. If you’re a smaller brewpub, maybe you want to have keg accounts in your own hometown.

In addition to all that, SB238 does make some things like charitable donations much simpler, which is nice.

NMDSBC: What was it like pursuing this bill?

Tweet: This year’s legislative session was a landmark event for brewers in New Mexico, and several bills made it through the session. A huge amount of credit is due to the hard work of our Guild Director Chris Goblet, Berkeley Merchant (Abbey Beverage, Inc.) and our lobbyist, Karin (Foster), who spent countless hours down at the Roundhouse paying attention to progress, fostering and maintaining relationships, managing communication, and keeping Nico Ortiz of Turtle Mountain (my partner in pursuing SB238) and everyone else up-to-date with what was going on, which was changing day-to-day the entire session. They really got this done. It made me think, several times, that I should have paid much more attention in my high school civics class (or whichever class they taught this stuff in) than I evidently did.

* * * * *

I also recently emailed Nico Ortiz a few questions to see how SB238 would affect Turtle Mountain.

NMDSBC: Can you tell us a little about your involvement with SB238 and what stake did Turtle Mountain have in it?

Ortiz: Turtle Mountain is one of the breweries that operate with both a restaurant license and a small brewer’s permit. Because state law currently prohibits any holder of a restaurant license from also holding a wholesalers license, Turtle can’t self-distribute our own beers. Rod and I, together with Chris Goblet and Berkeley Merchant, have worked for months on crafting language, meeting with other affected parties, as well as shepherding this bill, and the other bills affecting our industry, through the just-concluded 60-day session. What is at stake is our ability to join our fellow brewery brethren and self-distribute our beers locally, thereby benefiting from the local exposure and defending our territory in the process.

NMDSBC: What was the process between Rio Rancho and Santa Fe?

Ortiz: The process was all in Santa Fe. I worked with Chris, Rod, and Berkeley in drafting the proper language for the bill in advance of the session, and then it was up to Chris and Berkeley who were on the ground in Santa Fe to get the bills through. Rod and I did attend one committee meeting, but it was all Chris, Berkeley, and our lobbyist Karin who got them to the Governor’s desk.

NMDSBC: It’s been mentioned in several ways, but to clarify for our readers, what is the difference between having a Small Brewer’s License with a Restaurant Beer/Wine License, and having a Small Brewer’s License without the Restaurant Beer/Wine License?

Ortiz: Our restaurant license enables us to sell wine by the glass or bottle and to sell beers not manufactured in-house. A Small Brewer’s License allows the holder to sell beers made in-house and those from other NM breweries, but no other beers or wines. Rod and I operate brewpubs, or restaurants with in-house breweries. Most other breweries in the state use the taproom/food truck concept so they don’t need to sell other beers and wine because they don’t need to appeal to a wider variety of people.

NMDSBC: Essentially what did you hope for Turtle Mountain to gain by pushing this bill?

Ortiz: I want to be able to distribute Turtle Mountain beers to bars and restaurants in the Rio Rancho area, thereby defending our territory, gaining marketing exposure, as well as more fully utilizing the excess brewing capacity that we currently have.

NMDSBC: What will it mean to your business if you are able to self-distribute?

Ortiz: Distributing will mean a significant investment in both time and equipment to get the brewery ready to sell kegs to local accounts. We will have to acquire additional cooperage, a keg washer to clean that cooperage, and further down the line a delivery truck to deliver all the kegs. It will also increase brewery labor cost because kegs need to be cleaned, filled, delivered, lines cleaned, and paperwork filled out. What we will gain is more throughput of beer in the brewery and another revenue stream for our highest-margin product, as well as give us the off-site marketing exposure for our products that we currently only get from attending beer festivals.

NMDSBC: How important is it to your brewery’s future endeavors that this bill get passed?

Ortiz: We have no immediate plans to can or bottle our products, so this bill is not critical for our operations. But it does put us on a level playing field with the rest of the breweries in NM, so in that way it is very important. The third taproom bill that got passed might be more important in the short run to more breweries than this bill will be. We will certainly be taking advantage of the ability to distribute, however, and our future endeavors will be positively impacted by that ability.

NMDSBC: If signed, how do you imagine it will immediately affect your business? And what about long-term effects?

Ortiz: I will immediately apply for the license as soon as law allows, and we will begin distributing our beers (kegs) locally as soon as possible after that. In the short term it will lead to more costs as we purchase the equipment necessary to distribute, but over the long-term it should allow us to become more profitable as we create another revenue stream for the restaurant and more fully utilize the unused capacity we currently have in the brewery.

* * * * *

It had always bothered Tweet. “We have the same brewer’s license, so why can’t we get a wholesaler’s license?” was his argument. It’s been a little over 18 years since Second Street opened, and hopefully a big change is finally in order. Thanks to Chris Goblet, Berkeley Merchant, Karin Foster, Monica Ewing, Rod Tweet, Nico Ortiz, and everyone else involved, this bill is currently sitting on Governor Susana Martinez’s desk, awaiting her signature. Let’s hope that when the time comes, she has enough ink in the pen.

Note: Governor Martinez has until this Friday, April 10, to act on bills that were passed by the 2015 legislature. Legislation not acted upon by the Governor is considered pocket vetoed. If signed by the Governor, the provisions of the bill take effect July 1, 2015.

Cross your fingers folks, and head into Second Street or Turtle Mountain. Hopefully come Friday, we’re all raising a pint to the bright future of our industry. And as always, think globally, drink locally.

Cheers!

— Luke

LukePic1

For more #CraftBeer news and more @NMDarkSideBC news, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro.

La Cumbre's shiny new 30-barrel brewhouse is just another sign of the tremendous growth of the craft brewing scene here in New Mexico.

La Cumbre’s shiny new 30-barrel brewhouse is just another sign of the tremendous growth of the craft brewing scene here in New Mexico and the support the industry is receiving from state government.

The potential positive fallout from the New Mexico State Legislature passing multiple bills to help the craft brewing industry continues to be anticipated across Albuquerque. I was recently able to talk to some of the brewery owners to get their take on what those bills, once they are (hopefully) signed by Governor Susanna Martinez, will mean for their respective establishments.

“I think the story that the Brewers Guild has to tell is a compelling one,” La Cumbre’s Jeff Erway said. “One of job growth and economic growth in a state that has not seen much of either recently. I think that we represent a portion of the alcohol industry, that as much as any other is going out of their way to promote responsible drinking both in our establishments and at events. I think that we promote the state’s most thriving industry and that’s tourism. So when you add all that up it’s hard for even would-be opposers of our legislation to make much of a case.”

Senate Bill 238 will enable brewery-restaurants to begin distributing, something that will not affect La Cumbre (at least not at present) but will affect places like Nexus.

“On a distribution side it gives us the option if we choose to go that route,” Nexus’ Ken Carson said. “(But) as of today I’m choosing not to distribute. I might distribute to some friends. Like for instance we have a couple of beers over in the Blue Grasshopper. At one point, probably more under Addison (Poth), we had beer down at Back Alley. If other breweries are interested in carrying our beer we might consider that on a low-volume basis.”

Nexus has recently increased their capacity, but that was aimed more at a second location than any plan for distribution to other establishments.

“We’re going to save our capacity for additional taprooms,” Ken said. “I think that’s the route I want to go. I haven’t jumped out there too fast, primarily because I wanted to make sure our systems are in place. That’s one thing I’ve looked at. And also I don’t want to be bogged down with high costs on rent and lease costs. I’ve been playing it close to the vest and if I see a location that I really like, work on it, and see if I can bring a win-win situation for me and the landlord. If I can’t, then I don’t get into the deal, I just leave it alone.”

Senate Bill 440 will allow breweries to open a third off-site taproom, should they choose. Tractor already has one in Nob Hill and could consider more, co-owner Skye Devore said.

“Certainly like the third taproom could be awesome,” Skye said. “We have a wine license, (so) we can now have six taprooms that serve beer and wine which is pretty amazing if we wanted to become Dion’s. There’s that, which is really cool.”

La Cumbre could also look to open future taprooms, but right now the bill would probably benefit another of the Albuquerque heavyweights, Jeff said.

“SB440, primarily it’s going to positively affect quite possibly Marble Brewery,” he said. “I wouldn’t be shocked to see them open up another taproom here soon. It opens me up to expand as I see fit. Obviously Gabe Jensen over at Bosque had a real interest in seeing SB440 move forward. It just made sense since the wine growers were already allowed to do it.”

Another bill will enable breweries to start selling wine and cider even if they do not have a wine growers license. This should help out the many customers who are seeking gluten-free alternatives.

“I don’t know that I would necessarily sell wine in my taproom or taprooms,” Jeff said. “I’m not 100 percent opposed to it, I just haven’t given it much thought. But cider, if consistent draft cider becomes available, why wouldn’t I carry it?”

That should be good news for Tractor, which already produces their own cider with plans to put it in cans in the near future.

“We make a cider, so I don’t know who will want to carry it,” Skye said. “But there are limited options out there in terms of ciders especially in terms of players that are big enough locally to make enough to distribute to local breweries. It was already in our game plan to put cider in a can. So perhaps there’s room there for other breweries to carry our cider, if we can keep up (with demand).”

This could also impact another future plan at Tractor.

“For us, also, something that David (Hargis) and I planned once we got cider was to make our own wine,” Skye said. “That opens a door there that other breweries could not only buy cider from us but wine, once we’re at that level.”

Nexus had already acquired a wine license to sell cider and wine in bottles. Ken noted that many of his customers were coming for the food first and the beer second, so it already made sense to keep them all happy.

“We had both Santa Fe ciders in here,” Ken said, referring to Santa Sidra and Santa Fe Cider Works. “We did go out there and get our beer and wine license. We only have Black Mesa wines right now, which are from Espanola. It’s worked out really well. It’s a good relationship between two New Mexico businesses. Jerry, who owns the business, is as down to earth as any of our brewers. They bring their wine down periodically, instead of going through the distributor, so it’s a direct relationship there that’s positive. I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s good for the industry as a whole.”

Senate Bill 471 will allow alternating proprietorship, which gives smaller breweries the chance to lease space from larger breweries for a batch or two.

“SB471 really just kind of put in place what is already a federal law allowing for breweries to operate on an alternating proprietorship basis,” Jeff said. “It’s kind of what Abbey Beverage was already doing at the Rio Grande/Sierra Blanca facility. And to me, again, it just makes sense. Why would you not want them to do that and use the capacity they already have? I’m not saying I would ever consider producing other people’s beers, but we’re about to put 240 barrels of fermentation capacity into our facility and I’m hoping I can find something to put in there. That’s a lot of capacity all at once.”

The deadline for most of the bills to be signed is around April 10, so fingers are being crossed across the state.

“At the end of the day, these bills, while they have made it to the governor’s desk, the governor could simply veto them, she could simply not sign them just leave them on her desk,” Jeff said. “What we’re hoping is that she does sign them. We’ve continued to lobby the governor’s office. I’ve personally asked members down at city hall that are close to the mayor and close to the governor to approve them. One thing I don’t think anyone can really argue about this governor is that she’s anti-small business or anti-job growth. She’s very much supportive of small businesses and job growth and so is our mayor, Mayor (Richard) Berry. I suspect most or all will be signed by the governor. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”

Jeff went on to say that the members of the NM Brewers Guild will have a small docket for 2016, with the real aim being to make some major moves the following year.

“We’ve met as a group and 2017 we will be using some of this political capital that we’ve gained in the last few years to do our best to get some real changes for the craft brewing industry as a whole,” Jeff said. “It’s such a different landscape now that it was even five years ago. It’s a completely different landscape. We’re producing three times the amount of beer that we were five years ago. Not my brewery, the breweries as a whole are producing three times the amount of beer.”

La Cumbre has grown at a rate of 65 percent a year, something Jeff said they will match again in 2015. Many other breweries are experiencing similar positive growth. All of that, however, could be undone as increased production slams into the hefty New Mexico excise tax.

The state excise tax in New Mexico is 41 cents per gallon, as opposed to just eight cents per gallon in neighboring Colorado. Jeff pointed out that is why Colorado is the second-biggest producer of craft beer in the country. The high tax rate in New Mexico could hinder the future growth of the biggest breweries here like La Cumbre, Marble, and Santa Fe.

“I think excise tax is going to have to be addressed,” Jeff said. “(Santa Fe’s) Brian Lock, (Marble’s) Ted Rice, and myself, I think it’s going to be pretty hard to expect us to build a 50,000- or 100,000-barrel-a-year brewery by taxing us at 41 cents a gallon. If you want to produce 50,000 barrels a year … 635,000 dollars is going to be going to the state in excise taxes. Even at 50,000 barrels a year, I’m not making 600 grand a year. I’m not making what we pay in excise taxes right now. That’s just going to the state. The TTB would take another 350,000 dollars. We’d be paying over one million dollars in excise taxes. That would be any brewery in the state would be paying over one million dollars in excise taxes once they would get to 50,000 barrels. I think that’s just not tenable, not going to work.”

None of the breweries are closing in on 50,000 barrels of yearly production yet, so patience is the order of the day while the Guild starts to work on changing the minds of the politicians to lower the tax.

“It’s funny, when I’m in board of directors meetings with the Guild I’m always the one saying we should do this and we should do that, and hey, we should just not have excise taxes or anything,” Jeff said. “And Berkeley (Merchant) and Chris (Goblet) are just slow down, slow down. This is not a Ferrari Testarossa that you’re trying to turn here. This is a cargo ship. Baby steps, nice and slow and steady. They’re right, you can’t try to move mountains all at once. You just have to slowly but surely chip away at everything you need to grow your business.

“I try not to get too involved in politics outside of my industry. I know the legislature has gotten a bit of a black eye this past year, not much got done. We’ve got no complaints. The legislature, both sides of the aisle, have been good to us. When we have little roadblocks or hiccups, the powers that be have stood right back up and stood up for another day. I’m pretty ecstatic at what’s been accomplished here recently.”

Skye agreed and said the Guild needs support more than ever.

“So something we’re really advocating for this next year is for people to support the Guild,” she said. “The Guild’s festivals and events are ways that you can go and support the existence and well-being of beer in New Mexico and to keep that in mind. We’re requesting that a lot of the festivals we attend that are put on by for-profit entities give a portion of their profits back to the Guild.”

All of the developments in Santa Fe have the brewery owners feeling upbeat about the future.

“Really, I think the state, liquor is going to be here as long as it’s legal and as long as people drink it,” Ken said. “The bottom line is all we’re doing is bringing jobs back to New Mexico and pulling away from the large corporations that have dominated this industry. And creating something that’s unique. Everything that we do, there’s a difference between every brewery. It’s just diverse as to how we do things and adding to our culture.”

If/when the Governor signs the bills this week, we will have further updates. Until then, just keep those positive thoughts aimed at Santa Fe.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister