Calif. Governor Jerry Brown Defines 'Craft Beer'

Brown passes bill which qualifies certain brews as 'beers,' rather than as spirits

Barrel-aged beers, aged in barrels that once contained wine or spirits, are one of the newest trends to hit craft beer. But there was one problem it: is it a beer, or a spirit? In a slew of bills signed by California governor Jerry Brown last week, the issue was finally cleared up. The bill ensures that certain microbrews will continue to be qualified, and taxed, as beers, rather than as distilled spirits —a huge sigh of relief for the craft beer community

Both Democrats and Republicans supported the bill, which applies to beers brewed in wooden barrels that once held wine or other spirits. This Belgian-style brewing process has gained recent popularity, but had called into question the proper classification and taxation of such microbrews.

The California Craft Brewers Association supported the bill in order to ensure that such beers would not be taxed as highly as distilled spirits. Clarification was in order because under the previous state law, beer with "any amount of alcohol derived from distilled spirits ... even trace amounts" could therefore be taxed more heavily, said assemblyman Wesley Chesbro (D-Eureka).

Both chambers of Legislature unanimously voted to pass the bill. Apparently, cheaper beer is one thing both Democrats and Republicans can agree on.