COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Visitors can now quaff a hefty brew while touring a brewery in South Carolina, and the people who make beer are celebrating.
Gov. Nikki Haley signed legislation Thursday allowing tourists to sample more beer on-site.
Spokesman Rob Godfrey summed up the Republican governor's support in one word: "Cheers!"
"It changes everything about the way we operate," said Jaime Tenny, co-owner of COAST Brewing Co. in Charleston. "It's just fantastic!"
That includes expanded hours, a "proper" tasting room, and more events with food. "We get to get more people in the door and educate them on our beer," Tenny said.
State law previously limited on-site consumption to four samples of four ounces. That wasn't profitable, said Tenny, also president of the state Brewers Association.
The new law allows people to buy and drink up to 48 ounces as part of their tour, allowing for tastings of full pints. Only 16 ounces — a single pint — can be the high-octane beer, with over 8 percent alcohol by volume. People can buy up to a case of beer — 288 ounces — as they leave to consume later.
Tenny said she expects the law to induce more breweries to open in South Carolina. Currently, there are 12.
The bill's main sponsor, Rep. Derham Cole, called it an economic development issue, with more breweries bringing jobs and tourists.
The law's former limitations caused South Carolina to lose millions of dollars in capital investment to neighboring North Carolina, he said.
He dismissed criticism that the law will result in drunken tourists, noting the breweries have strict caps, while bars don't. The law includes penalties for breweries that violate the restrictions.
"Everybody has to take personal responsibility," said Cole, R-Spartanburg. "This is about more than drinking beer. It's about raising awareness and promoting their product."