Those kids and their barley wines

Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen an underage kid enjoying a rich, malty barley wine ale. No one? Didn’t think so. But a bill in Vermont that would raise the alcohol limit on beers sold in grocery stores is being held up by legislators who think that teens aiming to get drunk would choose expensive craft brews over the usual cheap beer and mass market wine:

State officials, however, are actively fighting passage of H.94 because they worry that consumers, particularly underage drinkers, will imbibe the more potent craft brews as they would mass-produced, low-alcohol content beers. This potentiality, they say, poses a threat to public health and safety…

Michael Hogan, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Liquor Control, opposes the bill. He is concerned that most people, particularly teenagers, are unaware of “the potency of these products,” which he says would be increasing from a low of 5 percent to as high as 16 percent.

Is Hogan so insanely devoted to his mission that he actually believes this, or is this just a convenient excuse for maintaining the state liquor stores’ current monopoly on high-alcohol beers? Regardless, these brews are an acquired taste, especially for a neophyte beer drinker on a teenager’s budget. Allowing their sale in grocery stores is unlikely to have much of an impact on teenage drinking, but it would make things a lot easier for the adults who want to buy them and the many Vermont breweries who’d like to make them.

(That said, if we actually could get high schoolers hooked on Belgian-style trippels instead of Bud and Miller, the world would become a much better place for beer lovers.)


2 thoughts on “Those kids and their barley wines”

  1. Clearly, state legislators are making a nonsense argument. Why would teenagers, of all consumer groups, buy artisanal beer a at a higher rate than would be expected–after taking its market share into account–of other consumer groups (that is, assuming I’m correct that artisanal beer represents a relatively small percentage of overall beer sales)? Secondly, haven’t these people heard of distilled drinks? Umm… you know… hard liquor? Having been a teenager not so long ago, when a proper piss up is called for, gin, vodka, whiskey and tequila will all do the trick pretty quickly. I realise that it’s not being proposed that hard liquor be sold at grocery stores, but a major point seems to be being missed by the legislature… Honestly, though, before artisanal beer and hard liquor come Night Train and MD 20/20. Drink up, kids.

    One final thought: for consistency’s sake, the state should be worried about all consumers drinking high-alcohol beer as they would a lower-alcohol beer, not just teenagers–not that I think it’s the state’s duty to concern itself with such matters.

  2. Maybe the reason we haven’t seen kids drinking barley wine is because of important laws like this one. Ever think of that, Jacob???

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