HUNTINGTON - New laws took effect in West Virginia this week that beer enthusiasts say are a step in the right direction to allow the state to take full advantage of the craft beer movement that has taken hold across the country.
Senate Bill 529, which went into effect Friday, ups the cap on alcohol by volume in beer from 12% to 15%. Jeff McKay, owner of Summit Beer Station in Huntington, said this means bars like his will finally be able to sell highly requested craft brews that customers previously had to cross state lines into Ohio or Kentucky to purchase, like Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout.
"There are still some beers that are above 15 percent and it gets a little complicated, but we can now get most of everything anyone could want," McKay said.
McKay said the new cap will also help in-state brewers, enabling them more freedom to create new brews.
The new law also removes the two-growler limit per patron and increases allowable growler size to no larger than 128 ounces.
McKay, who had a sale on growlers Friday to celebrate, said being able to fill more growlers is going to really help his business.
"I could sell a half barrel keg, but I couldn't sell more than two growlers," he said. "I'd be crazy to say that wouldn't help our bottom line."
Senate Bill 561 also went into effect this weekend, meaning certain types of businesses could serve alcohol to customers Sunday as early as 10 a.m. statewide. Cabell County opted to allow earlier alcohol sales in 2017 after the so-called "brunch bill" in 2016 allowed counties to decide to allow sales after 10 a.m. or not.
The option to serve alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sundays applies to Class A on-premises retailers who have one of the following types of WVABCA licenses: private club, private resort hotel, private hotel, private golf course, private 9-hole golf course, tavern, private wine restaurant, private wine spa, private bed and breakfast, private wine professional/college stadiums, fairs and festivals, one-day charitable events and approved floorplan extensions.
In addition, distilleries, mini-distilleries, wineries, farm wineries and resident brewers may conduct complimentary on-premises sampling beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays. However, no bottle sales may commence until 1 p.m.
McKay, who has worked with local legislators to try to change some laws, said both laws are great things for the state, but more needs to be done to change state code regarding alcohol sales to get West Virginia in line with its neighboring states.
"They'd rather you have go get drunk at bar at 10 a.m. instead of buying a six-pack at a gas station to drink at home," he said.
McKay said he wants to see the ABV cap removed entirely to be in line with Kentucky and Ohio. He'd also like to see the state remove red tape for brewers, such as allowing them to have obtain temporary licensing to sell at festivals.
"That's a great way for a brewery to dip their feet in and test the waters," he said.
He said there are a lot of little things, like a ban on neon beer signs or branded glassware, which people aren't aware of that need changed.
"I can see the light, but we are trying to navigate a lot of nooks and crannies and detours along the way," he said.
Summit Beer Station is located at 321 9th St. in Huntington and boasts 24 rotating taps of craft brews.