Kentucky brewers, state lawmaker crafting new bill to help breweries

Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 11:48 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - For Adam Watson, the combination of water, barley, yeast and hops makes more than just the perfect pint.

Those four ingredients are part of his livelihood.

“For me, beer is about community,” Watson said. “Beer for me has always been about getting excellent people together, about sharing stories, about being able to tie yourself into the people around you.”

Thanks to COVID-19, that way of life is nearly tapped out.

“We are still surviving, which is great, and something not everyone can say,” Watson said. “But in all honesty, this has been atrocious.”

Watson is the co-owner of Against the Grain and the Government Chair of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers.

Normally, their brewery Public House on Bardstown Road is full of customers, and though he’s busy, Watson is able to work with a pint in his hands.

During the pandemic, he’s been confined to the attic, his hands more full than ever, crunching numbers and trying to keep his business out of the red.

“It’s harder to do well at your job when you are constantly reminded that it’s just a shadow of what it should be,” Watson said.

Watson told our sister station WAVE 3 News brewers need help and their lifeline could be the state legislature.

He and other brewers said they are working with Senator Julie Raque-Adams to craft a bill that would help put more money in brewers’ pockets.

The bill, not introduced yet, would allow brewers more control over where they sell their products, allowing them to sell up to 2,500 barrels of beer directly to retail clients, like bars and restaurants. The legislation would allow them to bypass distributors, who right now act as the mandatory middleman between brewery and customer.

“This, in my opinion, is the single-most important piece of legislation for the longevity of the craft brewing industry in Kentucky,” Watson said. “This enables us to be responsible for whether we succeed or fail and to know that in the long term opening a brewery in Kentucky is going to be a viable thing.”

Raque-Adams and Sen. Robert Stivers sponsored a similar bill in 2020.

Senate Bill 231 was introduced in February of 2020, but fell by the wayside once the pandemic hit in March. Watson is hopeful the bill will have support from lawmakers this time around, and help breweries’ cashflow bubble up again in 2021.

“It allows us the flexibility to take our own success into our hands, instead of having to rely on someone else’s success with our brand,” Watson said. “We can actually utilize our own flexibility, our own energy, our own willingness to succeed to in fact succeed, rather than working hard and then hoping that that last mile gets covered by somebody else.”

Kentucky’s 2021 legislative session began January 5th and must adjourn by March 30th. Because this is an odd-numbered year, lawmakers took a three-week break after the first week.

The legislature will reconvene Tuesday, February 2nd.

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