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State Assembly Declares April Tennessee Craft Beer Month

Photo: Nine Tri-Cities craft breweries collaborated in March on a jointly produced beer known as Tri Local I. It was sold as part of the Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week. Photo courtesy: Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week
Photo: Nine Tri-Cities craft breweries collaborated in March on a jointly produced beer known as Tri Local I. It was sold as part of the Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week. Photo courtesy: Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week
April 29, 2015

BRISTOL, Tenn. - The approximately $445 million economic impact generated by Tennessee's craft breweries is enough for the State Assembly to declare April Craft Beer Month in Tennessee.

The joint resolution was introduced by Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, after he was contacted by a group of citizens and local brewers.

"Craft brewers have really made it a viable industry throughout the state, and I think that deserves recognition," he said. "It takes science and art and combines it. The folks I've talked with have a passion for that craft as well. "

There are now at least 50 breweries in Tennessee, more than double the number in 2011, and more are opening every month. Unlike neighboring states, beer is defined in Tennessee as a beverage with alcohol content of 5 percent or less. Since many craft beers are above that limit, the sale and distribution of higher-gravity beers is limited to businesses with a liquor license. In 2017, that cap will be raised to 8 percent.

Andrew Fisher, executive director of Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week, which took place earlier this month, is among the group of people that contacted Lundberg about the resolution.

"A lot of folks are unaware that we have such a thriving base here in Tennessee," Fisher said. "The state as a whole is ahead of the curve of our neighbors and ahead of the curve of the nation as a whole when it comes to numbers. While we still fight a lot of battles with taxation and laws, this was a big step forward in helping to change those things."

Lundberg said he and other lawmakers understand it's time for the state to create a more friendly environment for craft brewers.

"There's a lot of folks who wanted to be in Tennessee but have said, 'You know, your laws just aren't compatible, so we're going across the border.' And Tennessee has eight bordering states that frankly have been more friendly," Lundberg said. "Let's keep that business here and keep, frankly, that craft here as well."

Deschutes Brewery, based in Oregon, is considering whether to open an East Coast facility in Tennessee. Sierra Nevada also considered Maryville, Tenn., before deciding on Mills River, N.C., outside of Asheville, because of Tennessee's beer laws.

Stephanie Carson/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - TN