Sun King and other Indiana beer makers could produce more barrels while remaining small breweries under a bill the House Public Policy Committee passed on Wednesday.
However, the bill only allows a brewery to sell a third of that amount to retailers.
Brewers – including Sun King Brewery owner Clay Robinson – voiced support for SB 297. Last year, Sun King nearly hit the 30,000 barrel limit. Anything above that requires a brewer to switch to a different type of permit, which requires that sales go through a distributor and eliminates the ability to have a tasting room.
Robinson said the bill would allow his brewery to expand to Fishers where he has already purchased property.
Rep. Matthew Lehmen, R-Berne, said he’s concerned the bill violates the three-tier system in the state. The system divides the alcohol industry into producers, distributors and retailers. Producers can only sell to distributors, which sell to retailers, who then sell to customers.
Lehmen said SB 297 allows for producers, in the form of small breweries and craft beer producers, to sell to retailers and to consumers as opposed to selling through distributors. Initially, that exception was meant to help small breweries but Lehman said he’s frustrated that lawmakers keep making changes that expand the exceptions.
But Rep. Thomas Dermody, R-LaPorte, said debating bills including SB 297 gives lawmakers the opportunity to review the three-tier system and whether the state wants to keep it in place or make exceptions.
The committee passed SB 297 unanimously and it now moves to the full House for further consideration. HB 1311 has passed the House and is now awaiting action in the Senate Public Policy Committee.
Adam Lee is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.