Prohibition lives on in Alabama

A few weeks ago I wrote about the remaining legal hurdles to homebrewing in the United States. Demonstrating that these laws are still doing harm, agents from the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board raided a Birmingham store to seize homebrewing equipment:

The owner of a small beer, wine, and homebrewing supply chain says three agents from the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board raided his unopened store late Thursday afternoon and took $7,000 worth of home beer brewing supplies, including boxes of beer brewing kits, carboys, immersion chillers, and books about brewing.


The agents took the equipment used to brew beer, but Torres said they left the ingredients used in beer brewing — grain, hops, and yeast — in the store.

“They said they’ll be back at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning and everything had to be — everything, every pellet of hops, every kernel of grain — had to be out of the store before they’d be willing to consider our license,” Torres said. He said he now plans to get those ingredients out of his unopened store, which is located on 2nd Avenue South near Pepper Place, and take them back to his other location in Atlanta Thursday night.

An attorney for the ABC praises the agents’ discretion:

“The agents used their discretion, and instead of taking all of the items — which they had the authority to do — they only took a portion of the items with the assurance that the rest of the items would be out of the state by today (Friday),” Peacock said. The agents also showed discretion by choosing not to arrest the general manager of Hop City, he said.

[Hat tip to Alabama beer lover Tom.]


Regulation of the Day, beer edition

“Regulation of the Day” is actually Ryan’s bag, but alcohol is mine so I’m stealing his title just this once. This regulation is from Alabama, where brewpubs (restaurants that serve beer they make themselves) face many onerous requirements, including these:

Alabama law allows for this special class of breweries, but the legal restrictions on opening and operating these businesses are enormous. This is a large reason why Alabama has only two operating brewpubs while the states surrounding us have dozens.

Let’s take a look at the restrictions on brewpubs in Alabama:

1. Must be located in an historic building
2. Must be located in a wet county that had a brewery prior to 1919
3. You can ONLY sell the beer you brew in the brewpub. You can’t sell to wholesalers or stores
4. Must have a restaurant which seats at least 80
5. Must not brew more than 10,000 barrels of beer annually

There’s no sensible justification for limiting brewpubs to historic buildings in the counties that happened to have breweries operating in 1919. It’s just a very strange law in a state that has a decidedly mixed view of alcohol.

Fortunately Free the Hops, recently successful in bringing higher alcohol beers to Alabama, is on the case pushing the Brewery Modernization Act to improve the state’s beer culture. Read all about it here.

[Via Tom Pearson, aka the Pint Pundit, who will hopefully resume blogging more after getting an enormous flood of two or three new readers from this link back.]


Nymph mania

Just when Alabama’s gourmet beer bill was starting to make the state look like a reasonable place to buy alcohol, the local control board has stepped in to ban a wine’s suggestive label:

Wine and scantily clad women may sound like some cad’s idea of a good time, but the combo spells trouble in Alabama, which last week banned the sale of a California-made wine bottle adorned with a naked nymph — helping boost its sales elsewhere in the nation.

Pursuant to the state’s administrative code, the Alabama Beverage Control Board ordered Hahn Family Wines to remove its Cycles Gladiator wines from shelves throughout the state, calling its label “immodest.” According to Hahn president Bill Legion, a small state board in Alabama rejected the artwork last year, but the ruling did not catch Legion’s eye. His apparent defiance of the state’s decision — he claims the paperwork “fell through the cracks” — led to the ban.

“It’s turned out to be a great thing for us,” laughs Legion, who says he’s received calls of support from oenophiles around the world.

The bottle’s eyebrow-raising label was designed in homage to a classic 1890s print ad featuring a lithe, long-haired cyclist clinging to a bicycle shuttling through a starry sky. The belle époque illustration has since become a popular poster, affixed to bike-shop bulletin boards and wannabe road racers’ walls.

Click through to see the label, which I think is perfectly delightful. Maybe Free the Hops will take on prudishness next?


Bud responds

Pat Lynch, the Budweiser representative in Birmingham, has responded to Free the Hops’ call for a boycott on his products. In his defense, he notes that he does support a statewide bill lifting ABV limits, and only opposes local changes in the law. Seems like a weak excuse, but ok. But then he says this:

Lynch said he continues to support a statewide bill raising the ABV limit. He said he might still be willing to discuss that and perhaps a local bill with FTH, but that the call for a boycott wouldn’t help.

“A boycott’s not going to endear me into negotiations,” he said.

People shouldn’t have to endear themselves to the local Bud rep for the right to drink beer that doesn’t suck.


Boycott Budweiser?

Don’t mind if I do! I’ve been “boycotting” Bud products for as long as I’ve been drinking beer, but Tom Pearson reports that there’s a reason besides taste to do so: In Birmingham, the local distributor is actively opposing legislation that would lift the state’s ban on beers that are high in alcohol or served in bottles larger than a pint — in other words, lots of really, really good beers.

Just brewing Budweiser is crime enough, but actively preventing Alabamans from having the option of something better is even worse. I feel your pain, Tom. Luckily I can soothe mine with a big bottle of Allagash. I’ll be thinking of you.

Get the details at Free the Hops.