West Virginia Nonintoxicating Beer (0.5 % - 12% by volume)
Nonintoxicating Beer is defined by West Virginia Code §11-16-3(5), “Nonintoxicating beer” means all cereal malt beverages or products of the brewing industry commonly referred to as beer, lager beer, ale and all other mixtures and preparations produced by the brewing industry, including malt coolers and nonintoxicating craft beers containing at least one half of one percent alcohol by volume, but not more than nine and six-tenths of alcohol by weight, or twelve percent by volume, whichever is greater, all of which are hereby declared to be nonintoxicating and the word “liquor” as used in chapter sixty of this code shall be not construed to include or embrace nonintoxicating beer nor any of the beverages, products, mixtures or preparations included within this definition.”
Whether you are a prospective Brewer/Importer, Distributor, Brewery Representative, or Brewpub the goal of the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration (WVABCA) is to provide easy access to related topics.
West Virginia operates in a three tier distribution system. Laws, rules and regulations provide protection for each tier of the distribution system: brewer, distributor and licensed retailer. Fairness and equality are the overriding principles of the WVABCA.
Brewers must appoint distributors and assign exclusive territories through equitable franchise agreements. After the brewer makes the distributor and franchised territorial designations, the brewer must treat each distributor equally. Title 176, Series 1, Section 13.2.a, states in part, “A brewer may not transfer or deliver to a distributor any nonintoxicating beer without first having entered into an equitable franchise agreement with the distributor. Provided, that the franchise agreement must conform to the laws of this state and be approved in writing by the Commissioner. The franchise agreement shall be in writing, shall be identical as to terms and conditions with all other franchise agreements between the brewer and its other distributors in this state…”
New products and/or line extensions through franchised amendments must be offered to each distributor within the brewers established franchise network(s). Further, distributors maintain exclusive rights to products and territory assignments relating to brewer acquisitions.
§11-16-21(a)(2) states in part, “Whenever the manufacturing bottling or other production rights for the sale of nonintoxicating beer at wholesale of any brewer is acquired by another brewer, the franchise distributor of the selling brewer shall be entitled to continue distributing the selling brewer’s beer products as authorized in the distributor’s existing franchise agreement, and the acquiring brewer shall market all of the selling brewer’s beer products through said franchise distributor as though the acquiring brewer had made the franchise agreement…”
Approval of labels by the Commissioner is a mechanism by which the agency enforces the franchise law with respect to the assignment of brands. The WVABCA is the regulatory agency that maintains the integrity of laws that govern the industry within West Virginia and in no way markets or promotes breweries, distributors or brands.
The West Virginia Nonintoxicating Beer industry is directly governed by the following:
Specifically known as Chapter 11 (Taxation), Article 16 (Nonintoxicating Beer) of the Code of West Virginia.
Title 176, Series 1
Specifically known as Title 176 Legislative Rule, Series 1 Nonintoxicating Beer Licensing and Operations Procedures