Virginia breweries’ dream of selling their ales directly to vendors took a step forward this week.
On Tuesday a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee voted unanimously to approve a bill that would establish a legal framework through which breweries could sell their beer to retailers without using a distributor.
Virginia state law mandates a “three-tier system” for beer sales, meaning breweries must sell their product to a distributor, which then sells it to restaurants and retailers.
Last year the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild and the Virginia Beer Wholesalers Association – trade associations that represent brewers and distributors, respectively – began discussing a prospective bill that would allow brewers to sell a limited amount of product without a distributor.
The idea was not to try to dismantle the three-tier system altogether, but instead create something that would allow small craft breweries to try out distribution without signing a contract with a distributor, deals which are often difficult to break.
Product of the groups’ work is reflected in House Bill 2258, which passed its first subcommittee vote on Tuesday. The bill was patroned by Del. Roxann Robinson (R-Chesterfield).