OLYMPIA – The Washington Legislature is being asked to expand the amount of liquor small distillers can produce in a year and allow them to make special products.
The bill, introduced Friday by Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, is in some respects a recognition of the success of Dry Fly Distillery of Spokane, which makes vodka, gin and whiskey now sold in 17 states. Last month, its second batch of whiskey made from Washington wheat sold out in 90 minutes.
Dry Fly’s current output is about 10,000 gallons, which is twice what it was a year ago. If its growth continues at that pace, the distillery would hit the limit of 20,000 gallons in another year.
Marr’s proposal would triple the limit.
Dry Fly was the first distillery set up after the law passed in 2007. Co-owner Don Poffenroth said the current limits were essentially “pulled out of the air” because the state Liquor Control Board wanted some guidelines.
“We didn’t have any previous experience,” Poffenroth said. Since that time, at least eight other states have established laws for craft distilleries, and the common limit is 60,000 gallons.
“It generally matches the (alcoholic) output of a microbrewery or small winery,” he said. Small producers of beer, wine and liquor receive an excise tax break from the federal government.
The new law would also allow the craft distilleries to do “contract” work for other producers, Poffenroth said. They could make brandy for wineries or liquor from grain for farmers who would like to turn their crops into drinkable alcohol but don’t want to spend money on the expensive equipment.