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Originally published Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 4:00 PM

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Legislature deserves a toast for new beer and wine laws

The Legislature made a move last week to support local breweries and wineries by approving three bills that make minor modifications to state alcohol regulation. The Liquor Control Board at last adapts to the new era.

THE Washington Legislature is finally catching up with its booming beer and wine industry.

The Legislature made a move last week to support local breweries and wineries by approving three bills that make minor modifications to state alcohol regulation. The Liquor Control Board at last adapts to the new era.

One bill allows beer connoisseurs to fill up their "growlers" — beer to-go jugs, for those unfamiliar — with local brews on tap at specialty-beer retail stores. Previously, only taverns and brewpubs could fill growlers.

Washington is not lacking small-scale breweries, our state is home to more than 140, but only 30 have the means to bottle their product. Without the legislative change, accessing microbreweries who do not bottle meant going to their location or stopping at taverns to find the desired brew.

Specialty beer shops can now promote these hard-to-reach microbreweries — a big win for the industry and consumers.

The Legislature also joined the modern world by passing a bill that permits Washington wineries and breweries to offer tastings at local farmers markets.

With this, lawmakers are only willing to test the waters and will start a pilot program this year. The idea of alcohol in a public space still makes some uneasy.

But make no mistake, granting Washington residents another opportunity to taste wines made from local vineyards around the state provides a leg up for smaller wineries.

A third bill permits restaurants to waive corkage fees when it is included in an agreement to promote tourism. The Liquor Board is putting its stamp of approval on promotions once practiced in part of the state's wine country. Tourists may bring in a bottle from a local winery to a restaurant, for example, and not be charged a corkage fee.

This reform is another boost for local wineries.

So, a toast to the Legislature for taking a second look at stale alcohol regulations and giving local industries a push in a struggling economy. These reforms rightly reflect a more sophisticated Washington.

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