Assemblyman Tom Daly Changes How Beer Is Defined—What the Ale!

Drinking beer on the California Capitol State Lawn at the 2018 Craft Brewer’s Summit. Photo by Greg Nagel

If you’ve ever been to the Bruery in Placentia and read the beer list, then you know it can be as daunting as trying to find a specific furniture item inside an IKEA. Is Brazo Brazo a swanky armchair or an oak-aged sour rye ale with blackberries?

According to an antiquated 2006 California state law, beer is defined as something mainly derived from grain.

Assemblyman Tom Daly recently submitted Assembly Bill 205 in an effort to correct the issue; it passed unanimously.

“This bill is more of a cleanup of being able to use ingredients many craft brewers have been using for quite some time,” explains Patrick Rue, founder of the Bruery. “It won’t change what we do, but it does give us greater confidence that our use of certain ingredients is authorized by California law.”

A 2006 rule adopted by the U.S. Department of Treasury and its Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau states, “Beer must be brewed from malt or from substitutes for malt. Only rice, grain of any kind, bran, glucose, sugar and molasses are substitutes for malt. In addition, the following materials may be used as adjuncts in fermenting beer: honey, fruit, fruit juice, fruit concentrate, herbs, spices and other food materials.”

The new bill essentially adds that beer that includes honey, fruit, juice, herbs, spices or other food materials as adjuncts in fermentation “shall be defined exclusively as beer.”

“AB 205 is about licensing, not packaging,” adds David Miller, legislative director in Daly’s office.

California’s beer industry is valued at well more than $7 billion, and it’s great to see lawmakers looking to protect it.

Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening on June 29th in Anaheim!

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