By George Solis

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A battle over craft beer in Maryland is reaching its boiling point as lawmakers and brewers met in Annapolis to sound off on potential laws that could change how the multi-millon dollar industry operates in the state.

Lawmakers spent Friday night hashing out the details of two competing proposed pieces of legislation before them.

On the one hand, a bill is being pushed by state Comptroller Peter Franchot that would loosen restrictions for the sale and production of Class 5 craft brewers. The other would restrict the amount.

Franchot called that bill plus another one challenging brewers “petty and retaliatory.”

“They should be put in a drawer and forgotten. They did not have good intent in being introduce,” he said. “They made a mistake last year, they need to correct it.”

Either proposed pieces of legislation would undo law that passed last year that was also under heavy scrutiny.

The conversation in Annapolis is a heated one with a number of invested parties speaking out — including distributors, like Eric Best, who feel other stakeholders are being left out of the discussion.

“Law enforcement, public health officials, regulators, and communities. so, not be of these people have had a seat at the table,” Best said.

Some retailers that fear too much change in favor of craft brewers could be putting their livelihoods at stake are also speaking out.

“Let us keep it the way it is so we can keep moving in the great state of Maryland,” said retailer Ashish Parikh.

As for the brewers themselves, they say their request is a simple one: they just want to be able to make and sell beer.

“As of right now, you’re getting some breweries that are like ‘Eh, if this keeps up, we might leave.’ We don’t want that to happen, we want to be here,” said Joe Idoni of House Cat Brewing.

While exempt from any changes that could come from these bills, beer giant Guinness is essentially siding with the comptroller.

The company that owns Guinness issued the following statement:

We at Guinness were surprised by the introduction of HB 1052 and we do not support this bill.  While we appreciate the support for our brewery project by the Legislature and the collective Maryland beer community, this bill will take us a step backwards from the category growth, beer tourism and job creation we are all working towards.

HB 1283, which was passed during the 2017 legislative session, took major steps forward to support beer category growth and increase beer tourism in Maryland.  Passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support, HB 1283 was true compromise legislation and the result of extensive efforts by the General Assembly, Guinness, our industry partners, and the Brewers Association of Maryland.

“We will continue to work with and stand by our friends across the industry to promote growth, beer tourism and job creation in Maryland.”

While HB 1283 was critical in advancing the beer industry in Maryland, there is always room for improvement.  While we are focused on getting our brewery completed and open to the public this summer, Guinness is committed to being a part of Maryland’s vibrant beer industry.  As such, we will continue to work with and stand by our friends across the industry to help promote growth, beer tourism and job creation in Maryland.

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