Maryland brewers are making a lot of people happy these days and not just with the assorted selection of beers, but they aren’t too happy themselves as they fight for deregulation.

In 2016, brewers generated more than $637.6 million and helped support 6,541 jobs, according to the Bureau of Revenue Estimates’ economic study, which was released at the Reform on Tap Task Force meeting on Oct. 25.

But it could be a lot better, brewers said, if production limits are lifted. Without the deregulations, it is making it tough to compete against the monopolies. Standing in the way is House Bill 1283. The bill is loaded with restrictions and regulations that brewers and industry officials said is hurting the economy.

For example, 81 breweries must close taprooms at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. And that’s a killer for the craft beer industry, Comptroller Peter Franchot said.

In addition, Maryland breweries have a 2,000 barrel limit for taproom sales and 1,000 barrels if they sell to a whole sale distributor first.

But those aren’t the biggest issues. Under current law, the breweries have to make the beer on its premises, which eliminates contract brewing – an important element if the brewery can’t keep up with the demand.

“The craft beer industry is one of our state’s most important and fastest growing economic engines.  The men and women at the forefront of this dynamic industry are creating good-paying jobs, strengthening local economies and attracting tourists to communities in every corner of our state, ” said Franchot, who created the Reform on Tap Task Force in April. The task force’s mission is to modernize the state’s antiquated laws governing the manufacturing, distribution and sale of Maryland craft beer.

“However, the fact that we lag so far behind our neighboring states is a reminder that we can do so much better.  Flying Dog’s recent announcement that they will postpone plans to expand their brewery operations in Frederick underscore the severe consequences of a statutory and regulatory environment that impedes the growth and success of this industry. That is why it is critical that we reform, from top-to-bottom, the outdated laws that have restricted the growth of this industry for too long.”

Brew jobs growing

Maryland craft breweries employed 430 workers last year. The breweries also had an indirect effect on 264 jobs, which the study said comes to about $28.4 million in wages and generates $143.7 million in economic output.

Alcohol distributors and retailers also benefitted with the creation of about 6,000 jobs, or $200 million in labor income and nearly $500 million in economic activity, the study reported.

But the growth potential is still sky high, especially as a net importer of craft beer. Maryland drinks about 275,000 craft beer barrels while it produces 247,000 barrels.

“This study reveals not only the substantial size of this industry in its current status, but also that, when various comparative metrics are taken into account, the industry has considerable room to grow,” said Andrew Schaufele, director of the Maryland Bureau of Revenue Estimates.

And when compared to other states, Maryland still trails – ranking 47 in economic impact, 36 in number of breweries and 25 in gallons produced, according to  the National Brewers Association. Production has increased to an annual rate of 15 percent in the past five years, but its shy of the national average that sits at 18 percent.