The 20 craft distilleries in the state, along with the two dozen more pending distilleries, are toasting yesterday's approval of Senate Bill 6485, which triples the amount of liquor small craft distilleries are allowed to produce. If signed into law by the governor, it will raise the production limits for craft distilleries from 20,000 gallons annually to 60,000 gallons, putting Washington's cap in line with those of other states.
The bill also allows craft distillers to pour their own booze at special events (instead of relying on waitstaff at restaurants or events), and sell spirits out of state and to other manufacturers (instead of solely through the Liquor Control Board). By definition, craft distillers must create their spirits using Washington products for 51-percent of their production.
Jane Scrivanich, a spokeswoman for Soft Tail Spirits who testified for the bill, is thrilled by the news. "[Chateau] Ste. Michelle contacted us recently asking us if we could do something in conjunction with them, like providing us with some of their grapes for our grappa, which they'd then sell. This bill opens up the possibility for partnerships like that." Soft Tail Spirits currently produces grappa, a unique Italian brandy, though next week they're debuting a vodka made from eastern Washington apples.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board, for their part, didn't testify against the bill—which is a sign of progress for a board that is routinely criticized for its prohibition-era thinking.
"We weighed in neutral [on the bill]," says WSLCB spokesman Brian Smith. "There’s a growing craft distillery artisan community, and it's been steadily growing since 2008. This bill puts [craft] distillers on par with microbreweries and small wineries in our state. It's a good thing."
Mike Almquist, owner of Vin Co. in Seattle, agrees. "Everyone’s feeling the excitement [from this bill]. It certainly makes life easier." Vin Co. currently produces grappa, brandy, vodka, and is experimenting with whiskey.