Many of us lost track of what the “next big thing” was long ago. Trends may come and go, but we stay the same. However, lately I’ve noticed something odd: It seems like “small” may be the next big thing.

There are tiny houses, tiny cars, slim phones and small computers. Lately, even beer has gotten smaller. Maybe not the beverages themselves, per se, but breweries certainly have.

As recently as 2012, 90 percent of the US beer market was controlled by two companies, Anheuser-Busch and Miller Coors. You may know them for their greatest hits — Bud Light, Miller High Life and Coors Light. However, in the past few years, that has started to change.

Almost 600 craft breweries a year opened up across the country in 2012, and the share of the beer market controlled by small breweries grew to 25 percent in 2018 — and it’s still growing.

Here in Maine, there is a similar trend. In 2012, there were 37 craft breweries in Maine; today we are up to almost 140. Anyone who’s been to Orono in the past few years knows that in a town where there once were no breweries, there now are three. This relative explosion in production amounts to one of the most promising economic trends in the state.

Smaller breweries are simply more labor-intensive than their larger counterparts. National data shows that employment in the beer industry has skyrocketed since the craft beer boom took off. Before craft breweries took off, the industry was losing jobs.

In the Maine Legislature, we’re doing what we can to support this growing industry. As the Maine beer industry has grown, practices have emerged that do not neatly align with existing rules on the books. This can cause headaches for businesses and regulators alike, and stifle innovation to the benefit of no one. Part of our duty as lawmakers is to recognize when current law isn’t working the way it is supposed to, and make necessary changes

I have a bill, LD 254, “An Act To Clarify Liquor Label Approval and Registration Requirements”, which is aimed at promoting innovation and growth within the Maine beer industry. The bill will bring the text of the rules regarding alcoholic beverage labels into line with current regulatory practice, and clarify how labeling rules should apply to kegs, allowing more flexibility for brewers to experiment with new recipes. LD 254 will head to Gov. Janet Mills’ desk, and I am hopeful that she will sign it into law.

Craft breweries employ a ton of people and support a lot of associated industries — brewers, bartenders, managers, salespeople, drivers, bottlers, maintenance technicians, construction workers, and graphic designers just to name a few. Current estimates show that the Maine brewing industry employs 1,910 people directly, and has an annual economic impact of more than $260 million.

So whether you like sours, IPAs or stouts, or even Coors Light or Bud Heavy, or even if you don’t like beer, I think the positive economic impact of craft brewing in Maine is something we can all raise a glass to.

As always, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to reach my office at 287-1515 or [email protected]. I work for you and you have a right to hold me accountable.

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