New law encourages California craft brewers to keep growing

ca craft brewers assoc logo h | Devils River Whiskey

Nearly five thousand San Leandrans showed up last week for the soft opening of Fieldwork Brewing Company’s new tap room in their city, drawn by the brand’s reputation for excellent beer and airy, comfortable tap rooms.

Despite the success, it was going to be the last opening Fieldwork had for a while, because they had hit their limit on locations as set by the state. AB 2307, signed Friday by Governor Gavin Newsom, changed that.

The bill increased the number of satellite locations a brewery could have from six to eight.

“San Leandro was our biggest opening ever,” Fieldwork co-founder Barry Braden said. “We believe in meeting customers where they’re at, bringing them a community-centered space with great beer. We’re excited to keep looking towards the future.”

Currently, only two of those locations can be a “bona fide eating establishment,” which means having a full restaurant kitchen and the ability to serve wine and other brands’ beer. AB 2307, authored by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), raised that cap to four.

There are twice as many craft breweries in California right now than there were eight years ago, when the law capping expansion was written. At the time, a six location cap might have seemed like a limit very few would reach.

But now the industry is straining at the seams to meet customer demand for good beer and family-friendly gathering spaces and the legal limit was holding craft beer back. Fieldwork’s various locations serve 25,000 customers a week.

“We like this model that focuses on selling directly to the consumer because we can keep everything in house,” Braden said. “This way we make the beer our customers want and not the beer a distributor wants to sell. It allows us to be more creative and respond to on-site customer demand.”

Craft breweries are inherently local businesses and collectively, they pump billions of dollars into the state’s economy. Fieldwork alone employs more than 200 Californians. Brewery tap rooms function as community gathering places for adults with kids, and often dogs. Many tap rooms are the hub around which their neighborhoods turn.

AB 2307 merely granted breweries the right to continue delivering for their communities. It passed out of the legislature with bipartisan support and awaits a signature on the governor’s desk.

Craft brewing is an industry that continues to grow- expanding opportunities for tap room locations will help out brewers whose businesses are still just a twinkle in their eye.

“It’s for the breweries that haven’t even started yet,” Braden said. “It’s for the brewers who are putting pens to paper, planning, and thinking about whether this is something they can make a living doing.”

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