Beginning Monday, a new California law will allow manufacturers and distributors to give free beer samples to patrons at restaurants and bars, a marketing practice previously banned in the state.
Anheuser-Busch lobbied hard for the new law, but insists that it only plans to conduct small educational tastings about new beers, such as its latest winter sampling.
”It’s an opportunity for us to get consumers to sample some of our new products,” said Andrew Baldonado, Western region vice president of government affairs for Anheuser-Busch. ”The Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale is a seasonal beer that we’re doing. The best way to introduce those new products to consumers is to be able to have them sample them.”
Brewers, particularly small ones, already offer tastings at their own facilities in much the same way wineries do. Even Anheuser-Busch offers free tastings at its plant in Fairfield. But state law did not allow for beer samples beyond a brewer’s own tasting room.
The new law specifies that a beer tasting at a bar or restaurant cannot exceed eight ounces per person per day and that it must be served in a glass.
Fred Jones of the California Council on Alcohol Problems certainly doesn’t give beer much respect in knocking the law.
”It was jokingly referred to as the ‘free Happy Hour’ bill (in the Capitol), so I think that gives you an image of what could happen,” Jones said. ”What is the reason behind giving someone eight ounces of beer free? One could argue that with wineries, each winery is different and every bottle is different depending on age or season. But we’re talking about beer here.”
And this guy lives in California? Apparently with blinders on.