Battle brewing over beer in Ariz.

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Brewing beer is turning into a brewing battle between restaurant owners and state laws. At issue is how much beer is being brewed and where it's served.

Local brewers are asking lawmakers to change a law before they are forced to take a big financial hit.

The beer is flowing and business is booming at Tempe's Four Peaks Brewery, but the boom could soon turn into a bust.

"We're talking about Arizona growth and Arizona jobs," said Rob Fullmer, executive director of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild.

State law caps microbreweries at selling under 40,000 barrels of beer a year. Go over and the state considers them a big-time beer producer, forcing them to shut down their restaurants.

"We're asking that the state recognize that those restaurants are property, they're places in the community, they're gathering places and we don't think it's a good idea to have them close and lay off employees," Fullmer said.

With the popularity of craft beers exploding, Fullmer is asking the Legislature to change the current law and let small businesses keep their restaurants open while brewing more beer. But he is facing opposition from liquor distributors.

"It's really about economic protection," he said. "Craft beer is widely popular with millennials."

Barrett Marson is speaking for local distributors who believe that a law change would give small companies like Four Peaks an unfair advantage over larger manufacturers who are not allowed to operate restaurants.

"They have to decide whether they want to still be microbrewers or big producers," Marson said.

Without a law change, jobs could be lost and it's a point that Marson doesn't dispute.

Critics say brewers should get out of the food business once they grow to a certain size even if that means losing jobs.

This is expected to be a long and heated battle in the Legislature once lawmakers return to the Capitol next month.

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