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Legislature OKs bills to help small breweries grow

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Small breweries could sell and deliver more craft beer to stores without having to go through Michigan’s three-tier system for alcohol distribution under legislation that advanced to the governor’s desk on Wednesday.

The Senate voted unanimously in favor of the main measure, which would let microbrewers self-distribute up to 2,000 barrels annually — up from 1,000. On-premises sales would no longer count against the limit, either.

The proposed changes, which are part of a bipartisan 16-bill package, won House approval in February and are expected to be signed into law by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

A key sponsor, Republican Rep. Pauline Wendzel of Watervliet, said the legislation became more urgent as brewers closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“These small businesses are the center of many communities through our state,” she said.

Under the tiered system, brewers sell their beer to distributors — or wholesalers — which sell it to stores. Michigan defines a micro brewer as the maker of less than 60,000 barrels of beer per year.

Jay Fettig, owner of North Pier Brewing in Benton Harbor, said the legislation would help grow small craft breweries by simplifying and streaming the liquor law. Other bills would ease licensing for beer festivals, reduce the frequency of beer- and wine-related taxes and exempt brewpubs — which are smaller than breweries and microbreweries and can only sell inside their establishments — from certain regulatory requirements.

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