I don’t live in Alabama, and quite frankly, I’m glad I don’t. Not that I have anything against the people who live there; far from it. I live in Georgia, albeit as a transplant from Yankee Rhode Island where I was born and raised. But it’s hard to live in Georgia without meeting a lot of fine folks from our neighboring state to the west, and fine folks they are indeed.
But you see, if you live in Alabama and you love beer as much as I do, well, you have a problem. That’s because if you want a craft beer with more than 6% alcohol by volume, you’re going to have to drive to Georgia or Tennessee to buy it. That keeps a lot of the world-class brews that true aficionados crave out of Alabama, sadly enough.
Currently, a bill has passed the Alabama house that would correct that iniquity, and is on the way to the senate there. The bill has been pushed by a grass-roots organization called Free the Hops, on the heels of similar and successful movements in Georgia (Georgians for World Class Beer), North Carolina (Pop the Cap), and South Carolina (Pop the Cap South Carolina).
The sticking point seems to be the opposition of, again quite frankly, a rather ignorant group of religious zealots headed by a totally clueless chap by the name of Dan Ireland. NPR quotes Ireland as saying, “”I’m a total abstainer. I’m 78 years old, and I never tasted an alcoholic beverage. I just don’t think there’s any good quality about an alcoholic beverage. My major concern is that this would be an inducement to teenagers, underage drinkers, to get their hands on it. You know, technically speaking, one beer — that much alcohol — could conceivably get an average teenager drunk.”
Come on, Dan. They said that here in Georgia, and in North Carolina and South Carolina, too. But teens are not going to pay $10 for a 9% by volume bottle of Allagash Tripel. Heck, if it’s alcohol potency they’re after, hard liquor delivers far more bang for the buck anyway, and that’s easy enough to find in the Yellowhammer state.
Of course, if Dan Ireland had his way, you wouldn’t be able to buy any alcoholic beverage at all. In Alabama, or in any state. You were around during prohibition, Dan, and you should know it didn’t work then. It wouldn’t work now either.
It’s time to free the hops in Alabama. If Dan Ireland and his ilk don’t want to drink, that’s fine. For Dan Ireland and his ilk. But if America is a free country (and Alabama a free state), then Dan and his ilk need to mind their own business, and stay out of the lives of people who responsibly enjoy craft beer.
If it wasn’t so pathetic, it would almost be funny to watch state politicians here in Georgia haranguing over the proposed legislation to allow sales of beer, wine, and liquor on Sundays. Currently, you can’t buy any form of alcohol to take home at a liquor store, convenience outlet, or supermarket on Sunday. And, in some areas, you can’t even buy a drink at a restaurant or pub. The new legislation would allow communities to let their residents decide whether or not to change the law locally.
Governor Sonny Perdue has threatened to veto the bill if it passed, in a bow to the state’s conservative right-wing Christian voters. That makes little sense to me and a lot of people who think this all crazy at best and unconstitutional at worst. To be fair to Georgia and Sonny, the former is not the only state that has crazy beer laws. Go to a beer distributor in Pennsylvania and try to buy a six-pack and you’ll see what I mean. And Sonny signed into a law a few years ago a bill that abolished Georgia’s archaic 6% cap on the strength of beer sold here. Still, refusing to allow alcohol sales on the Christian Sabbath is a clear case of favoring that religion over all others, which is expressly forbid by the constitution.
What’s more, this entire brew-ha-ha has been stirred up by the fact that a baseball stadium for a Braves minor league team is being built in Gwinnett County, and the team wants to sell beer on Sundays (a stadium built in Rome, Georgia several years ago allows Sunday beer sales, even though you can’t buy one across the street at Applebee’s on that day). The scary thing is that some of those hard-core fanatics who don’t want to allow Georgians to buy a beer in a restaurant or at a convenience store on Sunday seem to think it’s fine to allow it at a baseball stadium. I could respect them more, I think, if they were at least consistent and didn’t throw morality out the window where money is coming in the door. But only a little more.
If you don’t want to drink on Sunday, that’s your affair. But it’s time for the State to stop dictating its idea of morality to the rest of us. The Sunday ban needs to be overturned, and overturned now.
So I was discussing beer with a friend the other day (imagine that). We have this running conversation about where we think craft beer, good beer, is headed. He brought up a good point, which is one that he and I have maintained for a long time, at times much to the consternation of extreme beer geeks. And that’s simply that although a number of breweries seem to be trying these days to outdo themselves with Imperial-this and Uber-that, those examples at the summit of what beer can be should not be the definition of what beer should be. Read the rest of this entry »