OLCC Kills Amateur Contest

From Combined Reports

A new interpretation of an old law has ended 31 years of wine judging and 22 years of beer judging at the Oregon State Fair — at least for this year.

Denny Conn of Noti, one of the founders of the home-brewed beer portion of the competition, said the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s last-minute decision might earn it a lot of angry letters.

However, it said it would be more useful for amateur wine vintners and beer brewers to press legislators to change the law. He said the home-brewing movement has had a lot of success repealing antiquated liquor laws in other states, and both legislators and OLCC officials seem very open to a change in Oregon.

At issue is ORS 471.403, which bars production of alcoholic beverages by anyone not licensed by the agency. It exempts beverages reserved strictly for home consumption rather than retail sale, but the OLCC recently decided that doesn’t apply to consumption at the state fair, even by judges.

Richard Olson, president of Capitol Brewers, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying, “This will come at a great cost to the state.

“It’s such a tradition. It’s been going on so many years.”

But he said, “It’s just something that has to be dealt with. I know the national group, the American Homebrewers Association, is looking at (the new interpretation).

Many amateur vintners and brewers have been developing products specifically for competitions like the one traditionally held in conjunction with the state fair.

Associated Press said representatives of the OLCC did not return calls for comment, but said a July 2 posting on the agency’s website indicates its new interpretation stems from a recent analysis by the Oregon Department of Justice.

It quoted the posting as saying: “The Department of Justice’s guidance certainly requires us to look at the competitions in a different way than we have before. It’s completely understandable that home beer and wine makers would be disappointed.” 

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