Spin Control

WA Lege Day 29: Craft liquor at farmers marts

OLYMPIA – Locally distilled liquor could be bought at farmer’s markets along with organic tomatoes and hand-made candles under a plan being considered by the Legislature.
And customers in state liquor stores would be able to taste test some pricy or exotic brands before buying under another proposal.
The state’s growing number of craft distilleries could sell their gins, vodkas and whiskeys at farmers markets that obtain the proper permits under Senate Bill 5650. Some farmers markets already can offer local wine or beer.
Ryan Hembree of Skip Rock distillers in Snohomish County said it would be away of keeping money local by selling liquor made from local grains. “There’s a community pride in the product,” he said.

Select state liquor stores would be able to offer customers up to four quarter-ounce samples of different products under Senate Bill 5150, much the way wine shops and wineries can now offer samples of their products. Stores could decide whether to charge for the samples, and customers couldn’t leave the store with the samples or be served if they were clearly intoxicated.
Matt McCarthy of the Distillers Representatives Association of Washington said the proposal is a good idea as customers become inundated with new products like fruit-flavored vodkas. Some are expensive and customers may be reluctant to buy a bottle without trying it, he added.
“I was astonished at the variety of flavored vodka and flavored gins,” Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, said.
While representatives of the state Liquor Control Board and the liquor industry were strongly supportive, Liz Wilhelm of the Washington Association of Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention said this would send a bad message to children to see their parents down four samples, get in a car and drive.
“What’s next? Sampling at gas stations and mini-marts?” Wilhelm asked.


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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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