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Delaware's craft breweries want to expand, but state law is restrictive

Karl Malgiero
Delaware Public Media

State lawmakers will consider two new bills aimed at expanding the craft brewery industry in the First State.


Craft breweries in Delaware follow strict laws surrounding their licenses, and what kind of alcohol they can produce.


State Rep. Bill Bush (D-Dover) says he met with craft breweries who wanted the state law changed to allow for more growth in the industry.


One change to the laws is expanding the number of brewpubs a brewery can have in the state from 3 to 5.


“Some of the brepubs right now, Iron Hill is a great example, have 3 within the state. And they want to expand and we would rather have the jobs in the state of Delaware than put them going outside the state," said Bush. "By having more brewpubs in our state really allows for economic development, tourism and allows for us to keep jobs in the state of Delaware and increase them.”


State Sen. Trey Paradee (D-Dover) says the cap was instituted to give small breweries in Delaware a chance to compete with larger breweries who may have been able to afford to open lots more brewpubs.


Now that many of the state's craft breweries have been successful and want to continue to expand, they are looking to open more brewpubs than the state law currently allows.


Another bill filed by Bush also changes the laws around brewing to allow for the production of fermented beverages other than beer.


Hard Seltzer has exploded in popularity across the country in recent years. But according to Delaware law, breweries in the state aren’t allowed to make it.


Bush says he met with craft breweries and found there was a need to change the law to match federal law.


“Under the federal laws, it can be brewed," said Bush. "However, the state of Delaware’s laws were a little bit restrictive on the definition for brewpubs and microbreweries. What this really does is it ensures that they can brew it in our state.”


Under current Delaware law, brewpubs are only allowed to brew beer, so Bush wants to expand that definition to include Cider, Mead, Hard seltzer or any fermented beverage to give craft breweries a chance to follow the trends.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.