News

What Does the Change of ABC Leadership Mean for NJ Breweries? How Did We Get Here?

David Rible has stepped down as ABC Director to “pursue other opportunities” and will be replaced by James B. Graziano on November 26th, 2018.  Graziano is a founding partner of Graziano, Piasecki & Whitelaw in Green Brook, where he specializes in civil litigation involving personal injury and employment claims. He also serves as a municipal court judge in Metuchen Borough and formerly served as the attorney for the Metuchen Parking Authority.

Rible had been under public scrutiny after the release of the Special Ruling on Limited License Breweries on September 21st that caused a ground swell of support for local breweries and associated businesses. This ruling, which would have made big changes to the way breweries could operate, has since been suspended pending “further review”.  The Independent Craft Brewers of NJ, a cooperative partnership formed by a group of New Jersey Brewers in the late Summer of 2018, collected a petition with over 30,000 signatures from state residents in the days following the ruling which, in addition to several state and local politicians voicing their opposition, no doubt was a factor in the suspension of the ruling.

Sean Galie, owner of Lower Forge Brewery who is also a member of the Independent Craft Brewers of NJ and the New Jersey Brewing Association told us, “I think that Director Rible was sincere when he said he thought the Special Ruling would be a good path forward for us, but he had a view of the industry that was already obsolete – and of course that led to the petition and public outcry.  Hopefully, a refresh in leadership will also bring updated views on the craft brewers and how we’ve grown and defined our market to compete with out-of-state and big multinational brands.”

The reaction among State Legislators was pretty immediate as well with Assembly Bill A-4594 sponsored by Assemblymen Joe Howarth (R) and Wayne Deangelo (D) which was introduced on October 17th, and Senate Bill S-3154 sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal introduced last week.  This is a complex issue as the ABC Director had full authority to make the Special Ruling, but the reaction from State Legislators has made it seem as if the new rules will be legislated.

The legislation will be a welcome sight to add clarity to the 2012 amendment to NJ Law 33:1-10 that the breweries are currently bound to.  There have been several different interpretations of the 2012 amendment about what can actually occur at a brewery such as, “What is a tour?” ” Can we have food trucks?”  “Are we allowed to have entertainment and, if so, what kind?”  The 2012 amendment was definitely a benchmark ruling when enacted and was a result of collaboration between both the state and the brewing industry.   One of the major parts of the ruling allowed breweries to sell beer in their tasting rooms which was huge as, up until the ruling,  they were giving it away for free when patrons toured their facilities.  In part, because of this extra revenue, breweries were able to hire more employees, expand distribution, and grow their business as the craft beer boom started to take hold here in New Jersey.

Fast forward to 2018 and the craft industry in New Jersey is growing at an exponential rate.  Cities are actually recruiting breweries to open in their municipalities, we have even seen them welcomed in what were formerly “dry” towns such as Pitman and Haddonfield.  These towns want to take advantage of not just the business that the breweries bring, but also other businesses that thrive when a brewery opens in their town.  Restaurants, food truck vendors, local musicians and artists, and many other unique businesses benefit from a brewery opening as it gives them another venue to interact with consumers.  Many restaurants have formed symbiotic relationships with the breweries offering food created with the local beer and, if they have a liquor license, having the local beer on tap.  Most breweries are open limited hours and cannot offer food,  so this relationship has been a win for many bars and restaurants that have embraced craft beer by offering local craft beer for patrons looking for something to eat or to get fresh local craft beer when the brewery is not open.  This all sounds great, right?

The contrarian view is that some breweries are operating their business as “sports bars” and it is not what the spirit of the 2012 ruling was about.  The opposition views include several practices that they feel should not be allowed in a limited license brewery such as music (live or recorded), entertainment such as Quizzo, or having a food truck on or even near the licensed premises. The guidance offered to the breweries is a “best practices” document the Brewer’s Association negotiated in 2012 and followed on a voluntary basis by breweries to police themeselves so that he ABC did not have to step in if they felt that breweries were getting out of control.

We could also certainly debate who is behind these views.  We know that big beer is clearly losing market share to craft beer, their pockets are deep, and they have a large lobby.  We also know that there are some bars and restaurants that feel breweries are overextending themselves in the way the run their tasting rooms, especially since they have paid a ridiculous amount of money to have a liquor license which is another huge issue here in New Jersey.  Without a doubt, there are also towns that have made it hard for breweries in response to owners of bars and restaurants exerting pressure on the mayor’s office.

Director Rible’s intention with the special ruling was to bring clarity to the 2012 law, but clearly the ruling was very harmful to the brewery side of things putting a stop to just about everything that they are doing in their taprooms (see the article HERE for the complete ruling).  One other factor that makes this even murkier is that the states 100+ breweries are in different stages of development.  The bigger breweries such as Cape May Brewing, Flying Fish, and Carton were not as affected as the smaller breweries just starting up who are using their taproom to bring in revenue to be able to grow to the size of the aforementioned breweries.  Director Rible met with several breweries and spoke with many stakeholders and implemented the short-lived ruling.

We reached out to Alexis Degan, the Executive Director of The New Jersey Brewer’s Association, an independent trade group whose goal is to support industry-wide growth and beer appreciation throughout New Jersey for comment and she told us, “I want to wish Director Rible the best in his future endeavors. I did not have the opportunity to work with him directly, but I give him a lot of credit for bringing stakeholders to the table to discuss the issues facing breweries in our state. I look forward to continuing that conversation with James Graziano as he takes the mantle.”

We have also spoken to many people in the business since this latest announcement and there is a growing sense of optimism that the rules that govern limited license craft breweries in the state will legislated in a way that is fair to all the concerned parties it will affect.  Sources from both sides of the issue have told us that they know that neither will get everything they want, but they are sure that there is a happy medium that will satisfy a majority of  the businesses involved in this debate.

Clearly there is not an easy answer here.  Our best guess is that the issue will eventually be legislated and both sides are going to have to make some concessions without slowing the growth of what is one of the fastest rising businesses in the state.  We also would hope that some dispensation would be made to the many small businesses that have arisen as a result of the success of local breweries.  One of the biggest pieces of collateral damage from the Special Ruling was that many of these small businesses would not be able to continue to run without pivoting to a whole new business plan.  These small businesses are great for the community, allowing people to supplement their incomes and offer events that are unique and offer something different to the community.

This is a very complex issue that has no easy answer.  People on both sides of the issue have invested large amounts of money and sweat equity in building their businesses and we don’t want to see any of them hurt.  But the simple fact is that there will likely be concessions by both sides .  All we can do as consumers is to patronize these businesses and show your support by reaching out to your local legislators and making your voice heard.

We will continue to cover the story as it develops…

 

News

BREAKING: ABC Director Rible Leaves Post, Judge James Graziano Nominated to Lead Division!

Attorney General Grewal Announces New Leadership at the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control
Middlesex County Attorney, Municipal Judge James Graziano to Lead Division

 

Trenton – New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that Governor Murphy will nominate attorney James B. Graziano to serve as the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”), the state agency with oversight over of the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages throughout the state.

Graziano is a founding partner of Graziano, Piasecki & Whitelaw in Green Brook, where he specializes in civil litigation involving personal injury and employment claims. He also serves as a municipal court judge in Metuchen Borough and formerly served as the attorney for the Metuchen Parking Authority.

“James is a seasoned civil litigator and experienced municipal judge whose legal background makes him an excellent candidate to lead the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The ABC interacts extensively with businesses and municipalities across New Jersey in regulating and enforcing the state’s liquor laws, and James’ practice of law both on and off the bench make him uniquely qualified to carry out those duties.”

After graduating with honors from Rutgers University, Cook College, with a B.S. in Environmental Studies, Graziano attended Rutgers University School of Law in Camden, where he served as Notes and Comments Editor of the Rutgers Camden Law Journal.
After earning his law degree, Graziano clerked for the Honorable John C. Demos, A.J.S.C. in Middlesex County before beginning his legal practice as an associate with the firm of Psak & Parker in Middlesex.

Graziano lives with his wife in Middlesex County, where he has served his community as a volunteer firefighter and emergency management coordinator.

As ABC Director, Graziano will oversee compliance among the more than 9,000 licensees who manufacture, distribute, sell, and serve alcoholic beverages in the state. He will also oversee the investigations of violations of the ABC law, which are conducted by the ABC’s Investigations Bureau.

“It is an honor to be appointed to lead the Division. Alcohol regulation has important public safety and economic implications,” said Graziano. “I look forward to working with the Attorney General, the members of the Division and industry representatives to advance the legislative objectives of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.”

Graziano will begin serving as Acting Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control on November 26. Governor Murphy will formally nominate Graziano to the position, which is subject to the advice and consent of the State Senate.

He will succeed David P. Rible, who has served as the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control since July 2017. He is leaving the Department of Law and Public Safety to pursue new opportunities.

“I want to thank Director Rible for his leadership and public service. As Director, as an assemblyman, and as a police officer, Dave has dedicated his career to faithfully serving the people of this State, and to that end, we owe him our thanks.” said Attorney General Grewal.

Follow the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office online at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flicker & YouTube. The social media links provided are for reference only. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office does not endorse any non-governmental websites, companies or applications.

 

Link To Press Release

Breweries News

Dogfish Head Releases IPAs For The Holidays Variety Pack

For Immediate Release:

 

Dogfish Head Releases IPAs for the Holidays Variety Pack

Limited edition 12-pack contains 4 varieties of IPA goodness + 2 exclusives – Viniferous IPA + Sixty One

Milton, Del., November 2, 2018 – Arriving just in time to make your “jingle bells rock,” Dogfish Head is bringing “joy to the world” with the release of the IPAs for the Holidays variety 12-pack.  Available in early November, the holiday pack contains 4 varieties of IPA goodness in one special box.  Featuring 2 exclusives – Sixty One and Viniferous IPA – along with a duo of fan-favorite IPAs – 60 Minute IPA and 90 Minute Imperial IPA – the holiday pack has all of your festive beer needs covered, including an homage to “reds and whites” for the vino lovers in the bunch.  The “white” beer-wine hybrid, Viniferous IPA, is fermented with Riesling & Viognier grape must and hopped with Hallertau Blanc, Huell Melon and El Dorado to match the dry, fruity complexity of a Riesling with the hoppiness of an IPA. Sixty One, the “red” beer-wine mashup, is a marriage of two Dogfish Head innovations – beer-wine hybrids featuring Syrah grape must and continually hopped IPAs. A great gift for holiday parties, the pack also features a special gift tag that can be personalized.

The IPAs for the Holidays 12pk includes:

Viniferous IPA12-pack EXCLUSIVE (Where applicable by law.)

Fermented with Riesling and Viognier grape must and hopped with Hallertau Blanc, Huell Melon and El Dorado to match the dry, fruity complexity of a Riesling with the hoppiness of an IPA.

Sixty One – 12-pack EXCLUSIVE (Where applicable by law.)

A marriage of two Dogfish Head innovations: beer-wine hybrids and continually hopped IPAs.  Dogfish took its best-selling 60 Minute and added Syrah grape must to create an IPA with equal parts fruity complexity and pungent hoppiness.

60 Minute IPA

A continually hopped super-fantastic East Coast IPA brewed with a slew of great Northwest hops for a powerful, but balanced, citrusy hop character.

90 Minute Imperial IPA

A continually hopped Imperial IPA whose powerful malt backbone stands up to the extreme hopping rate for a pungent, not crushing flavor.

“We’ve been experimenting with continual hopping and inventive beer-wine hybrid concoctions since we first opened our doors twenty-three years ago at our brewpub in Rehoboth,” said Sam Calagione, founder and CEO of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. “From angling a vibrating football game over a 5-barrel kettle with a bucket of pelletized hops hanging over it – which brought us 90 Minute Imperial IPA and paved the way for 60 Minuteand 120 Minute IPA – to blending grape juice and must in the brewing process with beers like Midas Touch,Noble Rot and Red & White; we take great pride in pushing the boundaries of experimentation in brewing atDogfish and are excited to move ahead into 2019 and beyond as we continue to stoke the flames of creativity in craft beer.”

For more information about Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and the IPAs for the Holidays visit dogfish.com

 

 

AC Beer & Music Festival Events News

The Best Deal of The Year on Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival Tickets is Today!

The 2019 Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival is Happening on March 29th and 30th and today is the best day to buy your tickets with the Friday 11/2 “I’m Only Here For The Beer” Promotion.

From 10 AM to 10 PM the tickets will be just $45 plus taxes and fees! These tickets are limited so make sure that you get in early!

Do not miss one of the best Beer Festivals in the United States as they kick off the first ever Atlantic City Beer Week leading up to the festival.  Sure you are coming for the beer, but this is also a world class concert and lifestyle festival with everything from a Silent Disco to Axe Throwing.

South Jersey Beer Scene is proud to be a partner in the festival and will be live streaming, podcasting, and participating in a ton of the events leading up to the festival!

Don’t make a bad life choice, make your plans and get your tickets today!

Purchase Here!

News

State Senator Vin Gopal Introduces Bill S-3154 To Make Changes to Laws Governing Breweries

Developing…

State Senator Vin Gopal (D) of legislative district 11 of Monmouth County has introduced Bill S-3154 to the State Senate which is listed on the state legislative sight as “making various changes to law governing limited breweries”.  This is the 2nd Bill of its kind that has been introduced as a reaction to the ABC ‘s recent “Ruling Regarding Limited License Breweries” that has since been put on hold pending further investigation.

Senator Gopal, the Senate Majority Leader, is one of the young leaders of the Democratic Party who defeated longtime Republican Incumbent Jennifer Beck was sworn in January and is one of the rising starts of the State’s Democratic Party.

On October 31st, Senator Gopal visited Carton Brewing in Atlantic Highlands with colleague Senator Declan O’Scanlan (R-Monmouth) and said on his Facebook Page, “It has been a pleasure working with our local breweries to ensure this growing industry is fully supported. Our local breweries are vital to our economy.”

We have reached out to Senator Gopal’s staff to get a comment on the legislation and have not received anything as of this moment.  Once the bill has been posted we will give analysis of the provisions as well as the full text.

It is a really crazy and confusing time here in New Jersey for the local brewing community and hopefully the legislation will be able to bring some clarity to the 2012 Rules regarding limited license breweries and  promote further growth of the industry here in New Jersey.

Stay tuned to SJBeerScene.com for all the breaking news!