Capitol Alert

Beer samples could be on tap at California farmers markets

Bartenders pour beer at the New Helvetia Brewing Company in Sacramento on Thursday, July 10, 2014.
Bartenders pour beer at the New Helvetia Brewing Company in Sacramento on Thursday, July 10, 2014. rbenton@sacbee.com

California’s farmers markets are places to sample the lush cornucopia of the state’s produce – and, perhaps soon, to taste the fruits of California’s many craft breweries.

Wine aficionados can currently sip samples of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon as they browse farmers markets. Beer vendors can’t offer the same choice. That would change under a bill that Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, hopes will pair two increasingly popular California activities.

“Statewide, craft brewing has really grown exponentially,” Levine said, and “we also have this farmers market culture where the makers of a product get to meet the consumers of a product and they can build a relationship with one another.”

Thanks to a bill that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last year, breweries can get licenses to sell suds at farmers markets. Assembly Bill 774 would extend the terms of those permits to allow tastings as long as the brewery is located in the same county as the market or an adjacent one.

Dozens of breweries said in a survey they will seek farmers market permits, according to California Craft Brewers Association executive director Tom McCormick. And as long as breweries are selling the beer, McCormick said, potential customers should be able to have a taste.

“It will benefit the consumer to know what they’re buying,” McCormick said.

Levine’s effort is the latest in a string of beer-friendly measures reflecting craft beer’s booming popularity. In 2013, Brown signed a bill allowing refills of glass jugs called growlers while sampling the product at Sacramento’s Track 7 Brewing.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.

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