Q: Why can I get free wine samples at the farmer’s market and grocery store, but not free beer samples?

I have some good news. Wineries and breweries play by different rules and, until recently, it was true that you could generally sample only wine. But things have changed.

As of July 2014, a new law went into effect. Breweries can now offer samples in places that are not otherwise licensed to sell beer—which could include just about anywhere, including events, retailers, and bars. Stores that otherwise only sell packaged beer can get in on the fun too by running their own sampling event or teaming up with a brewery to do so. Costco can therefore make its Sunday sampling bonanza even rowdier by adding free beer to the rotation.

The new law also clears up something that used to be a bit murky. While it has long been clear that breweries could sell their beer to you onsite, there was no clear legal authority allowing free samples. The recent rule changes now explicitly allow free sampling at breweries.

As with everything, there is fine print. Retailers like stores and bars can do an unlimited number of samplings, but breweries can only help hand out samples at a given location every so often. Servers also have to be 21 years old unless the sampling is in a bar or restaurant. The samples can only be 1.5 ounces, but there is apparently no limit on the number of samples you can receive.

*This Q&A article was originally featured in the December 2014 issue of Idaho Brew Magazine.