Category Archives: Beer Law

New Hampshire’s Nano Brewery Law Supports Local Craft Brews

Five Squam Beers

Posted by Peter Raymond on March 7, 2013.

The availability of craft beers has seen a dramatic rise in in the United States in recent years.  Thirty years ago there were less than 100 breweries throughout the United States, while today there are over 2,000.1  Many of these new breweries are centered in microbrew friendly areas such as the Northeast and Northwest.  While craft brewing currently accounts for only about five percent of the market share of national beer sales, this number is growing.  Threatened by the rising popularity of independent breweries, the largest beer producers in the U.S., AB Inbev (Budweiser) and SABMiller (MillerCoors), have attempted to recapture some of the craft brew market by producing their own pseudo-craft beer, like Budweiser’s Shock Top and Coor’s Blue Moon.  The beer giants have also bought smaller breweries, such as Henry Weinhard2 and Goose Island, and operate them under their original label.  But despite misleading marketing by these beverage giants, truly independent craft breweries continue to see an increased following.3

New Hampshire, a state known for its cheap alcohol and state-run liquor stores on its highways,4 has enacted legislation aimed to encourage development of small scale brewing.  In 2011 the legislature passed the nation’s first nano brewery law, recognizing nano breweries as a separate class and providing several exemptions from the standard brewery requirements.5  Before this law, all brewers in the state, regardless of their size, had to apply for a beverage manufacturer license. Continue reading

Coors’ Real Silver Bullet: The First Amendment


Posted by Matt Hasvold on February 21, 2013

While many consumers today take for granted that they can look at the alcohol content on a beer label, this wasn’t always so.  Following the repeal of Prohibition, Congress found it necessary to strictly regulate the country’s newly-legal vice with the 1935 Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAAA).  Among the Act’s rules was a provision that prohibited the printing of alcohol content on beer labels.1  Brewers were limited by this rule for several decades until 1987, when Coors Brewing Company finally raised a challenge.  Coors applied to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) for approval of proposed labels and advertisements that disclosed the alcohol content of its beer.  When the ATF denied the application, Coors brought suit seeking injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment that the labeling ban violated the First Amendment’s free speech protections.2 Continue reading

The Legacy of 3.2% Beer

We Want Beer

Posted by Russ Heller on February 7, 2013

Beer is on the upswing.  A quirkily-curated beer list is now a must at any respectable restaurant, and craft beer is exploding.  Indeed, craft beer sales revenues jumped 14% in the first half of 2012 alone.[1]  Along with this rise in sales, there has been an increase in the number of breweries.  According to the Brewers Association, there were 2,126 breweries in the U.S. in June 2012.  That is more than the 2,011 breweries that operated in 1887 (when New York State was the world’s #1 producer of hops) and way up from the meager 89 breweries and 44 brewing companies operating in 1979.[2]  Today, thanks to the number of breweries and the vast varieties they produce, we beer enthusiasts have countless events to attend[3] and even our own version of the sommelier, called the “Cicerone.”[4]

But while the U.S. beer industry has come far, there are still reminders of our less-than-enlightened past.  One of those reminders is 3.2% beer.  A relic of the days just after Prohibition, 3.2% “non-intoxicating” beer is still with us today.  In an attempt to limit the availability of higher-octane beverages, 3.2% is currently the only beverage allowed for sale at grocery stores in Colorado,[5] Utah,[6] and several other states.[7] Continue reading