Update 7/15: On July 15, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed 2019-S 0620 into law.
Visitors to Rhode Island breweries may soon be in for a bigger haul. Earlier this month, the Senate passed a bill to increase the limit of off-premise beer sold out of taprooms and it’s now headed to the House of Representatives.
Legislation filed by Sen. Walter S. Felag (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) will increase the current takeaway limit from 288 oz. to one case of 12 oz. cans or bottles (24 total) or one case of 16 oz. cans or bottles (24 total).
Breweries weren’t allowed to sell any beer for on- or off-premise consumption until July 2016, when the 288 oz. limit was introduced. (This legislation also included a 36 oz. on-premise consumption limit.) These off-premise sales limits may have sounded good at the time, since it meant you could walk away with a full case of 12 oz. cans. However, 16 oz. cans have continued to dominate the marketplace as the go-to vessel for golden suds. With these limitation in place, that means you can only take home 4½ four-packs of tallboys.
While this new legislation will only add another six cans to your cooler, it’s a step in the right direction. Lawmakers in the Ocean State and across the nation are starting to see the benefits of off-premise sales at craft breweries.
|Current off-premise sales limits||Proposed off-premise sales limits|
|24 12-oz. cans or bottles||24 12-oz. cans or bottles|
|18 16-oz. cans or bottles||24 16-oz. cans or bottles|
|4 64-oz. growlers||4 64-oz. growlers|
|9 32-oz. growlers/crowlers||9 32-oz. growlers/crowlers|
This discussion always raises the debate that the “average drinker” doesn’t need to leave a brewery with a hand truck of beer (insert usual photo of Tree House beer haul). Of course you’re (probably) not buying cases and cases of beer from your local brewery. But the couple visiting for the weekend or that group of friends driving through the state may not be able to visit that brewery as often.
Plenty of people travel for beer today. These are the folks seeking out cases of beer. These are people coming into communities and spending money. They plan their trips around which breweries are open and nearby to where they’re staying, or close to one another. Rhode Island’s in a unique position where ALL the state’s breweries are reasonably close to each other.
There should be no reason a visitor can’t stock up like they can in neighboring New England states. Rhode Island is quickly becoming one of those regional beer meccas itself with new breweries popping up left and right in recent years, while others continue to grow and expand their footprint.
Legislators have opened their eyes to the potential beer tourism offers, and they’re likely to open their ears to constituents asking for more progressive change to archaic liquor laws.
Of course, we’ll still have to wait for this bill to make its way through the House and onto Governor Gina Raimondo’s desk, but it does look promising. It’s going to take more than just a six can increase to catch up with modern beer trends, but at least things are moving forward. Perhaps self-distribution is just over the horizon.