Bills Stalled: Nevada Alcohol Manufacturers Find Raising Production Caps is a Heavy Lift

Craft brewers and distillers are wrangling with the state’s major liquor distributors over legislation that would raise the amount of product they can legally make each year.

Proponents of Senate Bill 130, the brewpub bill, pared back a provision that would have tripled their current production limit of 15,000 barrels annually. The concession would allow 10,000 barrels to sell in the pubs, with additional barrels to be sold through a distributor, up to a cap of 30,000 barrels per calendar year, doubling the current total.

With the amendment, SB 130 passed a Senate Committee with a 5-2 vote, but an amended version has not been posted.

The Nevada Wine Coalition had hoped some of its agenda could be absorbed into the brewpub bill, including a provision that would alter the case limit scheme for wineries, but its amendment was not accepted. The coalition is evaluating other options, said Executive Director Randi Thompson.

A separate bill adds the designation “estate distillery” to Nevada law. Senate Bill 199 defines an estate distillery as one that produces 75 percent of the agricultural raw materials it uses to manufacture its spirits. The bill was brought on behalf of Bently Enterprises in Douglas County, which grows barley, wheat, corn and spelt, to make a “world-class single malt whiskey,” said Senator James Settelmeyer, who sponsored it.

Opposition to SB 199 came from Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, raising questions about whether 75 percent is sufficient to earn the “estate” designation.

A larger objection stems from the bill’s proposed tenfold production limit. SB 199 seeks to raise the current in-state sales limit of 10,000 cases to 100,000, and the exportation limit from 40,000 to 400,000 cases.

“The 100,000 case number is huge,” said Southern’s lobbyist, Alfredo Alonso. “Southern’s top three brands are 100,000 or less in the state of Nevada.”

Alonso pointed out that the bill also does not cap on-premise sales.

“Does that allow for bars and other retail folks to come by and fill up their trunks with distilled spirits and sell those at their place of business, which is illegal today?”

Settelmeyer said he and Bently’s representatives will continue negotiating with opponents. He stressed economic development as the driver for the cap increase, characterizing the Bently Heritage project as an “excellent opportunity for the state of Nevada to diversify.”

Bently has undertaken a $100 million restoration of a century-old flour mill and a butter creamery in Minden to house its Bentley Heritage Estate Distillery.

The Carson Valley Visitors Authority views the project as a potential boon to tourism. Executive Director Jan Vandermade told the Senate committee that international travel and tour operators are already taking note.

SB 199 did not advance out of the committee.


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