Craft beer festivals are tremendously popular in Florida. The multiplication of beer festivals throughout the state has caused the state’s principal regulator of alcoholic beverages–the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (the ABT)–to take a closer look at how beer festivals are operated. Like all activities involving alcohol beverages, Florida beer festivals are subject to a confusing web of state and local laws and ordinances.
The following tips are intended to help organizers of Florida paid-admission beer festivals understand how state and local laws and ordinance may impact their festivals.
On the eve of the 2014 Florida Legislative session, Representative Ray Rodriguez introduced House Bill 1329, which proposes big changes for the operation of Florida breweries. The stated purpose of HB 1329 is to authorize a “very limited exception to the three-tier system” by allowing breweries to sell their beer in growlers. While the bill does authorize growlers (in two sizes), it also imposes strict requirements on the operation of existing brewery taprooms and ensures that new brewery taprooms will never operate in the same way.
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Different Rules for Taprooms Old and New
House Bill 1329 divides Florida’s production breweries into two categories: production breweries licensed before July 1, 2014 and production breweries licensed July 1, 2014 or later.
Legacy breweries–those licensed before July 1, 2014–could continue to operate taprooms under the existing tourism exemption so long as they continue to meet new requirements. The tourism exemption currently allows Florida breweries to operate a taproom where a brewery’s own beer and guest beers and wine can be served for consumption on premises or carry-out for consumption off premises (more on the tourism exemption in Brewers’ Law 101: Florida Brewing Licenses). Under HB 1329 existing taprooms could continue to operate this way as long as:
Manufacturers and bottlers of wine in Florida are regulated by the State of Florida and the federal government. This post discusses the state-level licensing of wineries in Florida.
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How does the State of Florida define “wine”?
Manufacturers and bottlers of wine are subject the same licensing requirements in Florida, but what does wine include for this purpose? Wine includes all beverages made from fresh fruits, berries, or grapes, either by natural fermentation or by natural fermentation with brandy added. Cider is a wine according to Florida law, so cideries must be licensed as a winery rather than a brewery. Mead and honey wine do not exactly fall within the definition of wine under Florida law, but meaderies are generally required to be licensed as wineries too.