Changes are brewing for the state's many farmers markets.
Beer could be sold at the popular markets as early as this summer.
A bill expected to pass the House of Representatives this week would allow New Hampshire breweries to sell beer at farmers markets across the state.
Rep. Donna Schlachman, D-Exeter, sponsored HB 1172; she said the bill is only fair to brewers.
"Last year, we passed a bill that allowed our local New Hampshire wineries to sell their product at farmers markets," she said. "Throwback Brewery came to me last spring and said we would also like to have the ability to offer our product at farmers markets. It just seemed like common sense."
And local farmers market officials are ready to tap a new market.
"I think it will be great," said Jane Lang, director of the Salem Farmers Market. "It's not just any beer, it's locally produced beer and that's in the true spirit of our farmers market. We have wines, so why shouldn't we have beer? It will be great on a summer afternoon."
Atkinson Farmers Market volunteer manager Robin Hernandez said it seemed fair to sell both wine and beer.
"It makes sense, we should be able to sell locally brewed beer," she said. "It will be all closed containers, no tasting, but absolutely this will be a draw for people. It's one more product we can offer."
Schlachman said the bill should provide an economic boost for local breweries, especially smaller ones.
"This has nothing to do with advocating the consumption of alcohol, it really is about helping small businesses and helping our local brewers get their products out closer to home," she said. "It's increasing awareness that we do have these small breweries."
The bill initially only allowed nano-breweries to distribute beer, which are defined as breweries that produce less than 2,500 barrels a year. But that changed.
"In the process of the hearing, the microbrewery people said, 'What about us?'" Schlachman said. "We're New Hampshire businesses and we're also interested in having an opportunity to sell our product. So, the final bill was amended to allow any sized brewery, even large ones. It's up to the local farmers markets to insist on only nano-breweries if they want to."
Local breweries are ready to start selling beer if the bill does pass. Bill Herlicka, owner of White Birch Brewing in Hooksett, said his nano-brewery makes about seven barrels of beer a day.
"We're excited that people are talking about trying to improve things for the state of New Hampshire beer," he said. "I would certainly like to go to a few farmers markets. We were contacted by three of them last year that I would love to participate in, but I had to turn them down. Now, we can go."
Farmers markets are great, Herlicka said, but beer would make them even better.
"For me, if there was a brewery there, I'd certainly be a lot more excited to go," he said.
The bill passed the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee unanimously and should be on the House floor for a vote today or tomorrow.
"I expect it to pass," Schlachman said. "We haven't really had any opposition so far."
The measure has bipartisan support, including from House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem.
"HB 1172 is yet another example of this Legislature working to create a better and more competitive business environment for our citizens and businesses," he said.
• • •
Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.