Foodservice Equipment Reports

A Beer Is A Beer, Virginia Announces

Is beer a food? Some would say yes, but craft breweries—and now lawmakers in Virginia— say no.

State agencies there have been duplicating regulation of the state’s 117 craft breweries, and operators in the fast-growing segment cried foul when the health department started trying to enforce restaurant-style regulations on free-standing breweries.

Virginia’s health department is supposed to regulate breweries with restaurants (about 10% of the industry) while the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulates breweries that manufacture and serve beer but do not serve food.

The issue came to a head this summer in Norfolk when a new brewery was told to comply with restaurant codes. While the foodservice equipment industry might have appreciated the health department’s insistence on refrigerating raw products such as malted barley—something not done anywhere in this country or the world—such a practice would have a huge financial impact on small breweries.

A meeting last week with legislators and health department officials has pulled together the agencies on the issue and they are working to clarify the regulations. While the two agencies have a memorandum of understanding to avoid duplication in regulation of wineries, no such memo exists for breweries. Lawmakers have directed both agencies to create one. The restaurant portion of breweries will still need to comply with restaurant regulations.

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