California Changes Its Legal Definition Of Beer

On Tuesday Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new bill into law that changes how beer is defined in the Golden State. And actually, California was just playing catch-up with the rest of the nation on this one…

Gov. Gavin Newsom

Here’s the deal…

California is in many ways one of the most progressive states in the union when it comes to both policy and brewing.

So it’s kind of amazing to find that up until the signing of Assembly Bill 205 this week beer couldn’t be produced using honey, fruit, fruit juice, fruit concentrate, herbs, spices, and other food materials.

“Under prior California law, using fruit in the fermentation process required a wine license,” according to KSBW 8. “Federal regulations already allow the use of these additional ingredients to the base of traditional beer.”

So the signing of AB-205, which passed unanimously in the Senate and the Assembly before arriving at Newsom’s desk, is a long-overdue alignment of California’s definition of beer with the federal definition.

The California Senate’s take on the bill which was put forward by Assemblyman Tom Daly, who represents Anaheim, a growing craft brewing mecca, was pro-business as well as pro-beer…

“This measure modifies the definition of beer in a way that will allow California breweries to expand their market, satisfying the consumer’s desire for more varied and unique styles of beer.”

And as Sean Hamlin, Government Affairs Manager for the California Craft Brewers Association explained to ABC 10 California’s legal redefinition acknowledge brewing techniques that span decades…

“This is something brewers have been doing for thousands of years, hundreds of years.”

“This {law} actually kind of recognizes what our guys have been doing, saying that it’s not just wine, it’s our beers, too, that use these ingredients to make the world’s best beer.”

And AB-205 passage is somewhat ornamental…

Clearly California’s legal system has deferred to Federal law’s definition of beer on this…

California’s brewers have long been crafting beers using honey, fruit, fruit juice, fruit concentrate, herbs, spices and other food materials. And as far as we know no one’s been prosecuted.

So this new law serves as more an endorsement of existing brewing practices than any kind-of ground-breaking initiative….

In January, Firestone Walker introduced Rosalie which the brewery describes as “a one-of-a-kind brew co-fermented with local Paso Robles wine grapes.” And SoCal’s The Bruery is famous for its culinary brewing tradition…

Updated 7/11/19 1:45pm

American Craft Beer reached out California Craft Brewers Association for comment and Executive Director Tom McCormick got back to us describing AB-205 as largely a “clean-up bill” which offically alligns the state’s policy with Federal regulations.

 

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