Harford County Council passes amendments to farm brewery legislation

·3 min read

Oct. 14—The Harford County Council stripped the owner-occupancy requirement from proposed legislation regulating farm breweries Tuesday but will require almost a third of a brewery's alcohol to be made on-site within three years of getting the proper approvals if made law.

Introduced after a public hearing on revised rules for farm breweries in the county, the two amendments each passed with six voting for them and one absent. The council will vote to approve the legislation at a future meeting.

Spearheaded by councilman Robert Wagner, the revised legislation before the council would require farm breweries to have a minimum of 25-acres of land, produce at least 2 acres of ingredient — excluding water — used in the brewing process and be at least 300 feet away from a property line, among other restrictions. One amendment added by councilman Chad Shrodes removed the requirement that brewers own and occupy the land the brewery is on, but the other proposed by Wagner will require brewers to produce 35% of their total product at the brewery.

Wagner has said that farm breweries have drifted away from the original intention of the 2015 law that allowed them. He said farm breweries were intended to provide auxiliary revenue to farmers but have come to eclipse agricultural production as some farms' biggest moneymakers.

Work to revise the laws allowing farm breweries in the county began after the council passed a 120-day moratorium on new farm breweries on June 8. From there, Wagner empaneled a study group to debate changes to the legislation before producing the bill.

Wagner said the amendment he proposed would require a brewery to produce at least 35% of its alcohol on-site within three years of getting the necessary approvals. That, he said, would prevent brewers from setting up nominal brewing operations and brewing most of their alcohol elsewhere.

"The whole intent of it was to make sure that you did not set up a brewery somewhere, and you didn't brew anything on site, or you brewed such a minimal percentage it was kind of a token brew," he said. "Without this, it may lend itself to something we are not really looking for, just a token brewing operation and it's actually a huge venue."

Shrodes proposed stripping the owner-occupancy requirement from the legislation because farms often encompass multiple parcels of land, and people who do not live on a farm may wish to work them and establish a brewery. Feedback from the community motivated him to propose the amendment, he said.

"Most farms out there, they actually occur on multiple parcels oftentimes," Shrodes said. "It could be a son or a daughter across the street or down the road a half mile, they may be the ones wishing to operate on the home farm."

At a public hearing on the proposed legislation before it was amended, representatives of the brewery industry have said the regulations before the county council would be some of the most restrictive in the state. Residents of Waverly Drive — the site of AleCraft Brewery's formerly planned expansion — were supportive of the bill at the hearing.

AleCraft announced in September that it would expand to Pennsylvania.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting