Kinks to iron out in Queensland’s artisan licence

Brewers are giving their verdict after the Queensland Government’s artisan producer licence was introduced earlier this year.

The state government introduced the Artisan Producer Licence in March, a move intended to allow artisan distillers and craft brewers to sell their own product on-premises and for takeaway, within stipulated production limits, as part of promises made in the 2018 Queensland Craft Beer Strategy.

Whilst other promises made in the strategy have yet to appear, the new licence was seen as a major win for the industry and a step in the right direction for the state government, particularly in light of the efforts other state authorities have made to support their local brewing industry. In NSW for instance, the government launched its NSW Indie Brews Action Plan and backed the Independent Brewers Association with $200,000 in funding last year.

Queensland’s artisan licence, which has been in the works for a number of years and initially received criticism from the industry, also allows brewers to sell samples at promotional events such as farmers’ markets, food festivals and agricultural shows, and to supply fellow artisan producers in Queensland.

So far, Attorney General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman said the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) has received 68 applications for the artisan liquor licence, with 16 of those applications from new producers.

“We will always put Queensland businesses and Queensland jobs first. That’s why we consulted with stakeholders across Queensland to ensure this licence supported their industries to grow,” the Attorney General’s office told Brews News.

The overall response has been largely positive from those who have submitted their license applications, although as with any new regulation, there are still kinks to iron out.

“So far so good,” said Richard Hudson of newly-launched Wynnum brewery Hudson Brewing.

“[Previously] we only had a producer wholesaler licence, so we were limited on what we could sell to customers and that excluded wine and cider.

“[The conditions] didn’t allow us to get a hotel licence, and we don’t serve food so we couldn’t get a cafe licence, so this was the best alternative.”

Hudson’s licence was issued earlier this month and will enable the brewery to attend festivals and farmers markets which can be a useful marketing tool, especially for smaller brewers.

“We were also looking forward to the ability to go to the markets, however that has a condition that you’re not allowed to serve or sell until 10am, and most local markets start at 7am, so it’s fine for festivals which are late morning into the evening, but with market stalls, you’re restricted.”

While there is no 10am restriction specified in the legislation and licensees are permitted to sell samples and limited takeaways during these events, time limitations may be specified in individual event approvals.

But brewers have highlighted other issues.

“We applied for it because it allows us to sell wines and spirits and as a small brewery it’s nice if blokes come in and one is a wine drinker they have a glass of wine, we couldn’t do that under our previous licence,” explained Rob Callin at Macalister Brewing Company, located north of Cairns.

“We were really hoping that that was going to be fairly open, but the biggest problem is that the licence says you can only buy spirits or wines from other artisan producers in your state,” he said.

“For the wine particularly, I think they’ve missed the mark. I just don’t think there are enough Queensland wineries to supply Queensland breweries.”

The stipulation that brewers and distillers who go in for the Artisan Producer Licence can only stock the produce of other state-based artisan producers isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker though.

Richard Hudson said it wasn’t a major issue for the Brisbane-based brewery, which has teamed up with Witches Falls, a wine and cider producer at Mount Tamborine.

“At this point, I haven’t found it to be a disadvantage, we prefer to use local where we can, would have gone for Queensland producers regardless,” Hudson said.

“One thing I have found is that, now we’re selling wine, they’re not allowed to take wine with them, so there are no takeaways for other artisan products.

“It’s not a big issue, but there are some people who like the wine and they want to take some home.”

Like any new legislation, there may be amendments to make and inevitably it will not please everyone, but the overall impression is that this is a win for the Queensland government and its efforts to support the state’s brewers.

The government is also undertaking ongoing industry collaboration and has brought in an advisory group to determine the response to the licence.

“Our Artisan Liquor Advisory Group provides an ongoing forum for industry to provide valuable feedback to government so we can ensure our legislation continues to support their industry to thrive in Queensland,” the Attorney General’s office said.

The Advisory Group held its first meeting on 10th May with key industry and Government stakeholders, it said, and the group will provide an ongoing forum for industry to raise issues concerning the legislation for consideration.

More information on the artisan producer licence can be found on the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation’s website.

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