August 11th, 2015 • by Wanda Wuest

Wanda Wuest

Wanda Wuest is a professional specialist who focuses on all areas of federal and state beverage alcohol regulations. She assists foreign and U.S.-based clients at all levels of the industry, including on and off-premise retailers, wholesalers and suppliers.

Trying to figure out the rules for doing consumer tastings of beer in New York State can be challenging.  Following is a brief guide to assist you in determining if your proposed tasting is in compliance with the laws and regulations of New York and whether some sort of permit may be needed in addition to your brewer’s license:

  1. No Permit Needed:

Farm Brewers – small samples of beer the brewer has produced or that have been produced by any other licensed farm brewer may be provided to consumers at its licensed premises or at its licensed branch office

Other Brewers – small samples of beer the brewer has produced may be provided to consumers at its licensed premises

  1. Permit to conduct tastings of New York State labeled beer away from the licensed premises throughout the state – permits are issued either on an annual basis or for an individual event

Farm Brewers – limited to small samples of beer of its own production

Other Brewers – limited to New York State labeled beer produced by the brewer

  1. Brewer Tasting Permit – permits are issued either on an annual basis or for an individual event

Farm Brewers & Other Brewers – allowed to provide no more than two samples of three ounces or less of beer it produces to consumers at establishments licensed under Alcoholic Beverage Control Law (“ ABCL”) Section 54 or 54-a (grocery stores or drug stores), provided, however, that the beer served must have been purchased by the retail licensee upon whose premises the tasting is taking place;  also allows sampling at state and county fairs and at establishments licensed under ABCL Section 53 (a C 103 wholesale license/Beverage Center also selling at retail for off-premise consumption.)  Note that a retailer may not charge a brewer a fee for the privilege of conducting a tasting on its premises

  1. Marketing Permit – permits are issued for a three year period or for an individual event

Farm Brewers & Other Brewers – samples are limited to three ounces or less, but no limit on number of samples; Marketing Permits may be used at the following events/locations:

–          Establishments licensed under the law to sell beer at retail

–          The State Fair, recognized county fairs and farmers markets operated on a non-profit basis

–          Outdoor or indoor gatherings, functions, occasions or events sponsored by a bona fide charitable organization

–          Other indoor or outdoor events specifically approved by the State Liquor Authority.

The following conditions apply to all tastings:

–          If a permit is required, a copy must be displayed at the event.

–          No fee may be charged by a brewer to a consumer for a tasting.

–          No tasting may be held during the hours when sales of beer for on-premise consumption are prohibited.

–          Brewers provide the beer for sampling in all cases except for tastings held under a Brewer Tasting Permit.

–          If the brewer provides the beer for tasting at a location other than its licensed premises (or branch office in the case of a farm brewer), all remaining product must be removed at the conclusion of the event.

–          Brewer is responsible for ensuring that samples are only served to individuals legally eligible to consume alcoholic beverages.

–          Brewers may not advertise tastings being held at retail premises.

–          Any liability stemming from a right of action resulting from a tasting event shall accrue to the brewer.

–          In the case of permits for individual events or tastings held under a Marketing Permit, which require SLA approval, applications must be filed at least 15 days in advance.

On a related issue, there is some good news from the Department of Taxation and Finance.  Due to recently enacted legislation, effective June 1, 2015, all beer provided at no charge to a customer or potential customer for consumption at a tasting held in accordance with the applicable law is exempt from NY sales and use tax.  This exemption applies also to any bottles, corks, caps, and labels used to package the beer served at the tastings.

The outline above is intended as a guide only and does not cover every possible situation or condition.  It is not a substitute for a complete review of the applicable law and SLA advisories.