New Booze Bill Goes To Parliament

Proposed legislation would see stronger alcohol available in supermarkets.

File photo: Espoo's Fat Lizard Brewing Company / Credit; News Now Finland

The government submitted its new alcohol legislation proposals to parliament today. But there might not be a vote until November.

In the proposal, the maximum alcohol strength of drinks sold in supermarkets will be raised to 5.5%. This applies to beer, long drinks and cider.

But if you’re swiping your supermarket loyalty card, the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs’ proposals mean in future, you won’t get any bonus points for buying booze.

The bill would also allow more liberal opening hours for restaurants, and craft beers or spirits producers would be allowed to sell their products directly from the place they’re made, as long as the alcohol content doesn’t exceed 12% by volume.

“I think all of this liberalization is part of growing up, I don’t agree with all these heavy handed rules that can easily be circumvented by just going and buying huge amounts of alcohol elsewhere” says Seamus Holohan from the Helsinki Distilling Company.

“You have to be realistic about these things, and this is a step in the direction of being realistic” he adds.

Espoo’s Fat Lizard Brewing Company have been brewing at their new facility in Otaniemi since spring.

Eero Kukko, the company’s Sales and Marketing Craft Brewer says the new legislation is welcome, especially for small batch, local breweries.

“It’s definitely a good thing, because at least in Otaniemi here, there are people coming every day asking where to get beer, and it’s very stupid to answer them that we can’t sell it here” says Kukko. “In the future, we will be able to emphasize that it’s a local product”.

However, one drawback with the proposed legislation is that it would limit sales only to companies that produce less than half a million litres per year.

Kukko think this seems unfair, because it puts a limit on the company’s growth ambitions. For example, they will likely hire someone to run the new brewery shop to handle sales, if the legislation is passed.

“But it’s crazy if we do well and exceed the annual limit, then we would have to close the store and fire the worker” says Kukko.

Fat Lizard, and other craft brewers in Finland, could take advantage of the new sales rules to try brewing very small batches to sell to beer enthusiasts. Those experimental beers would not otherwise be brewed in large quantities, because there would be no commercial value in them at first. This would allow craft brewers to try new things, and help with business development.