The Basics of Minnesota’s Brewer Taproom License

While the 2011 Session of the Minnesota Legislature was highlighted by the budget battle with Governor Mark Dayton, there were numerous other non-budgetary measures enacted into law.  One law change which received more coverage than any other was the new brewer taproom license, also known as the “Minnesota Pint Law” and known during the Session as the “Surly Bill” for Surly Brewing Company, the company who pushed for the new law. 

By now, everyone is aware that the new law – which was included in the annual omnibus liquor bill (HF 1326) allows production breweries such as Summit, Surly, Schell’s, Flat Earth, Lift Bridge, etc. to sell pints of beer at the brewery, and already I can attest to a number of beer-loving entrepreneurs looking at opening their own brewery in the wake of the new law. 

What most people do not know, however, is just how the new law and licensing scheme works.  Here are the basics:

• The brewer taproom license provision is found at new Subdivision 6 of Minnesota Statutes Section 340A.101. 

• Per the statute, municipalities are allowed to issue the holder of a brewer’s license a “brewer taproom license.”  This new license authorizes on-sale of malt liquor produced by the brewer for consumption on the premises of or adjacent to one brewery location owned by the brewer.

• The brewery can, if it chooses, operate a restaurant at the brewery.

• The brewer is limited to one taproom license.

• The taproom license is limited to small brewers (i.e., cannot brew over 250,000 barrels of malt liquor annually, or produce over 250,000 gallons of wine annually).

• The municipality shall impose a licensing fee on a brewer holding a brewer taproom license, but the fee can only cover the costs of issuing the license and related inspections.

• The new law also requires the municipality to inform the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety of the licensee’s name and information within ten (10) days of issuance.

So there you have it, folks.  After all the lobbying, blogging, Facebooking and other efforts by Surly, its fans and craft beer fans generally, we have the aforementioned “brewer taproom license.”

What’s next?  It’s my guess that, although Surly’s name was attached to the legislative effort to pass the taproom license, Surly will not be the first of the Minnesota breweries to construct a taproom and commence pint sales.  Instead, look for one or more of the newer entries into the market who have breweries under construction to include a taproom or restaurant inside their new facilities. 

One last note on the new law:  the bill’s chief author in the Minnesota Senate, Linda Scheid (whose district includes the existing Surly brewery), lost her battle with cancer shortly after the Session ended.  Very fittingly, attendees at her memorial service toasted her with what else?  Surly beer. 

I was recently interviewed by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal as to the effect of the new law.  You can read the article here if you’d like.