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Bills could help microbreweries expand in Michigan

Tim Pearce, Los Gatos

Bills meant to expand craft brewing in Michigan are one step closer to becoming law.

A state House panel unanimously approved the legislation Tuesday. Among other things, it would double the amount of beer microbreweries could produce every year.

“I think it’s a big step for craft brewing,” said House Regulatory Reform Committee Chair Hugh Crawford (R-Novi) after the vote. “It’s going to allow some to expand, some to do some other things that they’ve needed to do, which is going to provide jobs. So it’s going to be very beneficial to craft brewers.”

Scott Newman-Bale of Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire says the company is expanding fast and will reach the production limit soon.

“As is, the law means that we have to stop growing after next year,” said Newman-Bale. “So we need these bills to continue growing, otherwise we’re just going to hang out and sit right where we are. And that’s not really a good thing for the economy.”

The bills would also ease restrictions on brew pubs, allow more restaurants to brew their own beer, and allow larger brewers like Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo and Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids to open second locations in Michigan.

Brewers and other stakeholders have been debating the issue for more than a year. Now, it looks like House Bills 4709, 4710, and 4711 could clear the Legislature in the next few weeks.

There is some debate surrounding related legislation in the state Senate. Senate Bills 504 and 505 would ban bars and restaurants from using mugs and glasses with a brand’s logo on them. That’s already a state administrative rule. But some restaurant and bar owners say putting it in state law would make it harder to change in the future.