OLYMPIA — A local farmers market looks to be one of a handful of street markets throughout the state to offer beer and wine samples starting this fall.
The state Liquor Control Board picked the Vancouver Farmers Market on Wednesday along with nine other farmers markets to participate in the program set to run through Nov. 1, 2012.
Starting Sept. 1, the chosen farmers markets will be allowed to have samplings of products from in-state wineries, breweries and microbreweries. The marketsare required to have at least six tasting days before the end of the program.
Jordan Boldt, the executive director of the Vancouver Farmers Market, was surprised and happy to hear that his venue was selected for the program.
“This is an exciting thing for us,” Boldt said. “A lot of wineries have started to pop up throughout our state. Farmers markets are a great way for them to get their products to customers.”
Nearly 60 farmers markets were qualified for the program and 40 expressed interest in participating. The liquor board whittled that group down to the final 10 selected locations.
The list of participating markets remains tentative, though, as state officials still need to verify whether they meet all the necessary requirements. Other locations include Seattle, Everett, Tacoma and Wenatchee.
The program is a pilot established by Substitute House Bill 1172 from this year. The measure called for the liquor board to split the program among geographic regions throughout the state. For Southwest Washington, it came down to a drawing between the farmers market in Vancouver and one in La Center. The Vancouver market won.
“This pilot is another avenue for Washington’s breweries and wineries to educate customers about their products,” LCB Chairwoman Sharon Foster said in a statement released by the liquor board. “Because farmers markets take place in a community setting, there are safeguards in place to ensure tastings are conducted with public safety in mind.”
LCB enforcement officers will visit the participating markets — sometimes unannounced — to ensure each location complies with guidelines and state liquor laws.
Four breweries and 47 wineries are qualified to participate in the program at the pilot farmers markets. Each of the breweries and wineries needed to obtain an endorsement by the LCB by May 1 this year to offer tastings.
Boldt said the program is still restrictive, noting that each market must abide by a number of rules to partake in the pilot. However, he sees it as progress, and hopes the program will prove to the state that farmers markets can effectively handle sampling.
Rules say each sample can be no larger than two ounces and each customer may sample no more than four ounces.
In addition, staff members from the breweries, microbreweries and wineries are required to observe all samplers in a designated tasting area to keep minors and inebriated people from participating. They are also required to have food available nearby.
Boldt is confident the program will be a success and he hopes it will continue beyond the November 2012 finish date.
“I see it as a long-term program,” he said.
The LCB is also working on a spirit sampling pilot program set to start on Sept. 1. Officials say the program may have some developments next week.