Brew fans raise pint to victory

South Carolina’s House of Representatives has approved a bill that would allow sales of beer pints at state breweries.

Kirsty Wigglesworth

Beer lovers may soon be quaffing suds from their source after the state House of Representatives gave final approval Thursday to a bill allowing pint sales at South Carolina breweries.

The legislation awaits Gov. Nikki Haley’s signature to become law.

The S.C. Brewers Association has been pushing the measure for more than a year to enable breweries to bring in additional revenue and spur industry growth in the Palmetto State. The bill would allow breweries to sell up to 48 ounces of beer, or three pints, to a customer for on-premises consumption in a 24-hour period.

State law now limits breweries to 4-ounce pours at tastings, and brewers argue that the ceiling puts them at a competitive disadvantage with their counterparts in free-pouring states like North Carolina. South Carolina is home to about a dozen breweries.

Jaime Tenny, president of the brewers association, said the approved measure is less than what supporters had hoped for but is still a big step forward for the state. The association wanted to cap consumption at 64 ounces per person, enough to fill an average growler.

“It’s a compromise, but at the same time it’s a huge victory,” she said.

Tenny, co-owner of Coast Brewing in North Charleston, said the change would especially benefit smaller brewers by helping them draw more visitors who can stay and sample the wares.

“It gets more people through the doors, and anytime you do that you are exposing them to your beer and what you’re doing,” she said.

Tenny said Haley has indicated that she will sign the bill into law. Haley’s office did not respond to an email from a reporter seeking confirmation.

Supporters were forced to compromise on the lower sales limit after the bill ran into opposition earlier this year from critics concerned about the potential for brewery visitors to get too inebriated on high-octane beers during tours.

Laura Hudson, executive director of the S.C. Crime Victims’ Council, was among those raising doubts. She said the compromise not only limits on-site consumption to 48 ounces but also drops the strength of available beer from 14 percent to 12 percent and requires training for servers.

“It’s not exactly what I’d like, but I feel more comfortable with the compromise,” she said.

State Sen. Sean Bennett, a Summerville Republican who fought for the bill, said it will create businesses and jobs.

“These are true entrepreneurs across the state, so we need to be doing everything we can to help the people behind these businesses succeed,” he said. “I’m thrilled for them.”