Soon you may be able to pick up a growler of beer or bottle of gin along with you local kale and free-range eggs at D.C.'s farmers markets. New legislation proposed by the mayor's office would create a license for breweries, distilleries, and wineries to conduct free tastings and sell their products at farmers markets. The D.C. Council will hill hold a hearing on the bill on Oct. 26.
FreshFarm Markets, which operates eight District farmers markets including those in Dupont Circle and Penn Quarter, is already interested in taking advantage of the potential changes. "It would be amazing," says FreshFarm Chief of Staff Maddy Beckwith, who says her organization just learned about the bill yesterday. "When we started there wasn't any beer or alcohol being produced in the District, and now it is. So it would be another way for us to partner with local makers."
FreshFarm already sells wine at its Maryland and Virginia markets. In D.C., markets can currently get temporary licenses to serve alcohol, but it has to be consumed on-site and the license does not allow the sale of closed containers. Beckwith says that the temporary license is also cost-prohibitive. "It has to be roped off, and you have to hire security," she says.
Owners of DC Brau, Atlas Brew Works, New Columbia Distillers, and One Eight Distilling, to name a few, all say they would be interested in potentially selling at farmers markets.
"We would probably do a couple of them and see what the response is. Do people want to buy a bottle of gin at a farmers market? I don't know," New Columbia co-founder John Uselton says. "It's something that's intriguing to us."
"We would absolutely take advantage of the change," says Atlas Brew Works co-founder Justin Cox via email.
What's somewhat unique to this proposed legislation is that it doesn't appear to have been lobbied for by any of the existing breweries or distilleries.
"It wasn’t requested by a specific person or organization," says Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administrator spokesperson Jessie Cornelius. "It was introduced by Mayor Muriel Bowser in coordination with ABRA." In the past, changes to D.C.'s alcohol manufacturing laws have been pushed by specific businesses.
Three years ago, distilleries couldn't even sell bottles or give out tastes at their own facilities.
"It's exciting that there's more things we can do as a distillery that a couple years ago was not a possibility," Uselton says.
Photo by Jessica Sidman