This time around, Davis let the bill get through, even though he voted against it. Davis said the limits built into the bill helped changed his mind. The bill restricts distilleries to selling 10,000 gallons of alcohol a year, and to making the product locally. It also allows permits to be issued only if the applicant has been operating a winery or brewery for at least three years. Other applicants would have to apply for a distillery permit and then wait three years.
“We’re not talking about a big expansion of liquor making in Indiana,” Davis said. “We’re talking about small operations, many of them family-owned, with very limited production capacity.”
Ted Huber, whose family operates Huber’s Orchard, Vineyard and Winery on a 600-acre farm in Starlight, is already distilling small batches of brandy, made from fruit grown on his farm. He’s ready to expand into hard spirits, including whiskey that could be made with Indiana-grown corn.
“The whole micro-distillery movement is progressing fast around the U.S.,” Huber said. “There is a huge demand for high-end, hand-crafted, small-batch spirits.”
The artisan distillery bill may have the legs to get through the Senate. Its sponsors include Sen. Jim Banks of Columbia City and a fellow Republican, Senate Public Policy Committee Chairman Ron Alting of Lafayette. Banks is also the author of a bill that’s already passed the Senate that would let microbreweries sell bottles and growlers of beer at farmers markets’ and trade shows.
Banks said he’s seen the number of microbreweries grow to more than 60 in Indiana, creating more than 1,000 jobs along the way. He sees the same potential for the micro-distilleries: Locally grown businesses started by job-creating entrepreneurs.
“These are the type of businesses we want to support,” Banks said.