Pop quiz: What are you doing tomorrow and the next day? If you enjoy delicious beer, scrumptious food and excellent music in a convivial atmosphere, you’ll be heading to the fourth annual Magic City Brewfest! The good folks at Free the Hops (why haven’t you joined yet?), whose efforts resulted in the lifting of the six percent cap on the alcohol content of beers last year, are once again putting on this wonderful event! There are still a few tickets available, so don’t be left out.

Because of Free the Hops’ efforts, Alabamians are now able to enjoy a much wider range of flavors and styles of beer than before the ABV limit was raised. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to explore the world of beer that the new law permits, you’ll have your chance this weekend as once again the MCBF has an all-star lineup of craft-brewed goodness, food and music. It all takes place at historic Sloss this Friday and Saturday!

And, remember, though the hops are much freer than they used to be, the law books here in Bama are still chock-full of Prohibition-era gobbledygook that prevents many breweries from distributing their craft-brewed deliciousness here. Not only is the MCBF a great time, it supports a great cause! If you haven’t joined yet, join today.

Hope to see you there!

Update: Well, the fourth annual MCBF was a rousing success! If you missed out, be sure to get your tickets early for next year and keep an eye out for more Free the Hops events throughout the year. Event wrap-ups here and here.

Don’t know how I missed this last year:

“Alabama scores as #21 on overall freedom and does much better on economic than personal freedom, as one might expect from a highly socially conservative state. Nevertheless, Alabama does well on some personal freedoms, such as smoking bans, cigarette taxes and gun control. Alabama has a strangely restrictive alcohol regime, with the second-highest beer taxes and highest spirits taxes in the country. Alabama’s marijuana laws are unusually punitive: A three-year mandatory minimum sentence exists for all marijuana cultivation or sale convictions, by far the highest in the country, and the maximum sentence for a single cultivation or sale conviction is life in prison. Alabama’s court system is one of the worst in the country according to the Chamber of Commerce survey. Moving from elected to appointed judges should help in this regard.”

Page 25, 2009 Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom (.pdf) from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Please watch this excellent new film about protecting your constitutional rights in a police encounter and then head over to FlexYourRights.org!

Beer Roundup

Happy Hour Guys profile Free the Hops! and the J. Clyde:

Update on Freddy’s: Barring a miracle, the saloon will be demolished so some fatcats can have a new arena. Freddy’s supporters staged a protest and last hurrah. RIP.

PA Keystone LCB Kops raid bars for illegal beers on anonymous tip.

Update

These raids illustrate the problem with selective enforcement of health/safety regulations. The first thing I thought of when I saw this story was that a rival bar owner snitched because they were losing business to these three establishments that evidently had a pretty good selection and are good at providing what their customers want, even if that means flouting the rules a bit. The update above also speculates that a competitor turned them in. These raids also demonstrate the absurdity of health/safety being rules being enforced by SWAT-esque raids of agents sweeping into an establishment and seizing non-conforming product. This treats business owners like criminals, as if they would intentionally (or through gross negligence) put their customers at risk of harm. As anyone who has been through the hassle and expense of setting up and running a business can tell you, they have very powerful incentives to keep their customers healthy and happy. This is especially true of small, local businesses who cannot absorb the financial costs that reputation damage entails. In cases like these, especially, where the goods in question are sealed, obviously designed for human consumption and sold in other states/countries with no adverse effects (except for the odd hangover:), why do any of the product need to be confiscated? My guess is to keep up the pretense that such regulations are actually in place for health and safety purposes instead of just another tax.

Speaking of alcohol and taxes: Hate the Sin, Tax the Sinner?

Xaq’s guide to Homebrewing for Fun and Profit

Also via Xaq: San Fran’s booze nannies.

Danner’s Beer of the Week: Highland Oatmeal Porter

Via Danner:

Should we boycott UPS for refusing to ship beer? The author of that post seems to think so, but I’m not so certain. UPS cites regulatory costs and legal hurdles for shipping beer to retailers in other states and given the propensity for the states to enact absurd and conflicting regulations, as a shipper, I might throw up my hands and decide it’s not worth it anymore as well. I’m no expert on the three-tier distribution system either, but I’m pretty sure the distributors are allowed to discriminate as well. I know this situation involves shipment to retailers, but remember that it took a Supreme Court decision to allow direct shipment of wine to consumers. But, I have an open mind, so if you think I don’t have all the facts, please enlighten me.

Extreme hops?

Other news:

Btw, Oyster Stout doesn’t actually taste like oysters:) Via Jacob.

Moderate wine consumption appears to help women manage weight gain better than non-drinkers.

And, the Onion responds to the above news in typically awesome fashion.

Eminent Domain abuse in NYC threatens award-winning neighborhood saloon:

More here and here.

Another gentle reminder to keep calling and emailing your state representatives and senators urging them to support the Alabama Brewery Modernization Act (Free the Hops’ legislative effort for this session) and the Homebrew Legalization Act (not an FTH effort, but of course they wholeheartedly support it.) As always, keep informed and active by visiting the FTH blog and join FTH if you haven’t yet.

FTH founder Danner Kline reviews Sam Adams’ Noble Pils and Schneider and Sohn’s Aventinus.

Danner also Buzzed the following three stories:

Anti-alcohol ads drive folks to drink.

Dr. Seuss did ad illustrations for Narragansatt Brewing Co. and has a rich family history of brewing.

Booze that won’t give you a hangover.

Xaq pointed me to this post by Eric Crampton. Evidently, a study of beer yeast (for the purpose of ruining Germany’s beer industry by developing a superior brew!) is what led Louis Pasteur to discover the germ theory of disease.

Oyster stout? Yes, please.

California ABC sez to bar owners: “I do what I want!

Cheeky, a new restaurant opening just outside of Atlanta on Monday, will feature PYOB. Yup, Pour Your Own Beer.

I promise that I have lots of non-links posts waiting in the wings. I’ve just been too busy to put on the finishing touches. Til then, enjoy!

Beer Roundup!

First things first: Remember to keep calling and emailing your state representatives and senators urging them to support the Alabama Brewery Modernization Act (Free the Hops’ legislative effort for this session) and the Homebrew Legalization Act (not an FTH effort, but of course they wholeheartedly support it.) As always, keep informed and active by visiting the FTH blog and join up if you haven’t yet.

Speaking of Free the Hops, founder Danner Kline welcomes the first of Magic Hat’s delicious offerings, the legendary #9, to Birmingham. If you don’t know Magic Hat, it’s Vermont’s finest brewery and famous for its delicious and innovative brews as well as the pithy sayings found underneath their bottle caps. Here’s hoping it won’t take too long to get more of their tasty beers here.

Move over Utopias (Sam Adams’ very high-gravity (27% ABV), very expensive small-batch annual brew), the folks at Scotland’s BrewDog have come up with an astounding 41% ABV beer called: Sink the Bismarck!. Evidently, this beer is a the latest salvo in an ABV arms race between BrewDog and German Brewery Schorschbrau. Here’s BrewDog’s no-holds-barred video celebrating the escalation:

Sink the Bismarck! from BrewDog on Vimeo.

The lads at BrewDog not only have a ripping sense of humor, but apparently a libertarian streak as well. From the Beeb: “BrewDog was previously branded irresponsible for an 18.2% beer called Tokyo, which it then followed with a low alcohol beer called Nanny State, then Tactical Nuclear Penguin.” Since such strong brew is out of my price range and illegal here in Bama (13.9% ABV is the more-lenient limit that thankfully became law last year, but way shy of 41%), it may be awhile before I can sample such high-gravity delights.

(via Danner)

Why it’s hard to find a quiet bar these days. (via Andrew Sullivan) Not sure if I buy this, but it seems to make sense–if it’s difficult to talk with your friends or strangers, you’re more likely to pass the time drinking.

The remaining links courtesy of my good friend Jacob Grier, who is a fine writer, coffee guru, mixologist and magician.

During Prohibition the feds decided to “scare” people away from booze by poisoning otherwise drinkable industrial alcohol. The result? 10,000 dead. Read the whole tragic tale in Slate. As Alex Tabarrok notes, the poisoning policy is still in effect, but due to the availability of cheap legal alcohol, folks are not dying much from tainted liquor these days. Jacob draws the obvious parallel to today’s disastrous prohibition policies: “The wrong lesson to take from this is that we’re more enlightened now. Poisoning the alcohol supply was an egregious abuse, but it’s a small step from that to forcing terminally ill AIDS and cancer patients to give up the marijuana that suppresses their vomiting, to mention just one of the most tragic casualties in the War on Drugs. With prohibition of any kind, grotesque absolutism often leads the government to choose killing its citizens over letting them get high.”

Forbes now has a booze blog. They’ve recently highlighted my favorite Bourbon: Bulleit, which is as their post notes delicious and reasonably priced.

Oregon State economist Patrick Emerson discusses the “Beeronomics” of shatterproof pints and whether they will lead to a decline in fighting. Hint: probably not.

On the beer trail in Vietnam. I wish I had applied for the visa now. It seems the three-day wait would’ve been worth it.

Nothing new to report on the romance front and this post will not be as long or elaborate as year’s past, but i do want to remind everyone of one of the best commentaries on St. Valentine’s life and work ever. Dig it here.

Update II: It’s snowing again! Maybe we’ll get a four-day weekend:)

Update: Local filmmaker Chance Shirley captures the event better than I could hope to:

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Original post:

So it’s not as catchy as stars falling here, but still a notable event. It also gives me an opportunity to subject you to snow pictures along with some snow-themed poetry that I subjected my fellow classmates to in those snow-filled days at GMU. Enjoy or don’t:)

First, some pics from my neighborhood (more after the jump):

Snow-limned tree in my neighbor's yard

Snow-limned tree in my neighbor's yard

Intrepid snow dogs Baxter (l) and Annie (r)

Intrepid snow dogs Baxter (l) and Annie (r)

I believe I wrote this in college, but evidently didn’t publish it til law school, when I should’ve known better:)

Snow

by yours truly

Crunching softly under my feet,
Frozen cotton litters the street
On the path, it whirls and slithers.
Touched by sun, it melts and withers.

It is snowing!

Flakes are blowing!

Here and there as they scurry on their way.

It’s over now (and the same goes for the snow) and it will be awhile before i subject you, gentle readers, to more (i have more than you want to know).

First published in George Mason University School of Law’s creative journal, “the scrivener,” vol. III, no. 1 – spring 2005.

Continue reading ‘Snow fell on Alabama’

Update II: Our rally was quite a success! We had about 30 people at any given time down at Five Points and close to 50 back at the meeting on Highland Avenue. We also had several news outlets cover us including: The Birmingham News, Fox 6 and CBS 42.

Here’s the video coverage from CBS 42:



We had mostly positive reactions from passersby, including folks from all walks of like–even a Birmingham police officer gave us a friendly wave as he drove by. There was a loud, drunk guy who kept coming over and yelling at or with us–it was hard to tell, but, eventually he moved on and the rally proceeded without incident.

Thanks to everyone for coming out to the rally!

Update: Given the weather situation, we’ve decided to push the rally start time to 2pm to give the roads a chance to de-ice. Please be careful out there. Make good decisions. If the roads near you are icy, we’d rather you join us next time than risk an accident.

Also, local media will be out to cover our event tomorrow, so please remember to keep it peaceful, polite and professional.

Hope to see y’all tomorrow.

Note from Alabamians for Compassionate Care:

UPDATE: Due to inclement weather conditions the time of this event has been pushed back by one hour. We will meet at 2330 Highland Avenue at 2 pm and begin our march to the Fountain at 5 Points South between 2:30 and 3:00 pm. The Birmingham News has confirmed that they will be coming out to report on our event. If road conditions are still problematic in your area at noon then do not attempt to attend. However, if you can safely make it to this event please come and bring as many people as you can.

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Original post:

More advocacy coming at ya! I promise that I’ll get down to more “writing-type” writing soon, but I just haven’t had the time recently. However, if you’re in town this Saturday, you should feel free to load up on signs and bring your friends to a Medical Marijuana Awareness (details below). We’re aiming to make a strong show of support for the right of ill people and their doctors to choose whatever form of medicine best meets their needs without fear of arrest, incarceration or other official sanction. Policymakers and law enforcement have no business deciding what medicines are appropriate for patients. The therapeutic benefits of marijuana were widely known in this country before drug prohibition took effect. In fact, the American Medical Association opposed making cannabis illegal before prohibition and has recently come out in support of rescheduling. Please come out and support the rights of patients and doctors to determine the most effective treatment.

Also, Alabama Representative Patricia Todd of Birmingham is sponsoring legislation that would make Alabama the 15th state to implement a medical marijuana program to allow doctors to recommend and patients to obtain marijuana to treat a variety of ailments. Currently designated HB207, though I am told it will have a different designation soon, this legislation will not be brought up for a vote this session unless it passes out of the Alabama House Judiciary Committee. Please contact your state representative and urge him or her to support HB207. Please also contact Rep. Todd and thank her for introducing this legislation.

See y’all Saturday!!

Rally Details:

What: International Medical Marijuana Awareness Rally

Where: Meet at 2330 Highland Ave. So., Birmingham, AL 35205

When: This Saturday, February 13th from 1-4pm.

Who: You and all your friends!

If you plan to come to the rally, please also read this important note from Alabamians for Compassionate Care. In other words, be peaceful, polite and professional.

The remainder shamelessly, but gratefully:), lifted from the invitation sent out by the wonderful folks at ACC:

On Feb. 13, 2010 beginning at 1 p.m. members of Alabamians for Compassionate Care/Alabama NORML will kick off International Medical Marijuana Awareness Week with a celebration in Birmingham, Alabama with a pot luck dinner, fellowship, speakers and a short demonstration. If you plan to attend please bring a dish (preferred dishes: Finger Foods/Munchies) to share with other attendees; drinks will be provided. Later on we plan to have individual patients tell their stories about why they use medical marijuana, what they have to endure to get their medicine and how such obstacles have negatively impacted their lives. We will conclude our event by marching from 2330 Highland Ave. down to the fountain at 5 Points South and the back to the Hwy 280 overpass. Please make and bring signs about medical marijuana. Possible slogans include: I am a PATIENT not a criminal, My other medicine is addictive, STOP ARRESTING PATIENTS, MAKE MEDICAL MARIJUANA LEGAL, etc.

Please feel free to make up your own sign slogans so long as they have to do with medical marijuana.

The address of our celebration is

2330 Highland Ave. South (on Southside), Birmingham, AL 35205

This location is right next to Caldwell Park. Should our group become too large for the location we have selected we can and will spill over into the park, weather permitting.

Load your cars and trucks up with as many people as you can find and we look forward to seeing you there.

If you have questions or need further information please feel free to email me at lorettanall@gmail.com. You can also contact our Outreach coordinator Christie O’Brien at 205-907-6131/alabamacompcare@yahoo.com or by contacting our Web Coordinator Penny Vaughan at 256-276-0083/ luvlavndr@yahoo.com.

And the beat goes on…After last year’s victory in raising the ABV limit for beer here in ‘bama, there are two more battles this legislative session (going on now!) important for folks who dig liberty as well as a tasty brew.

Currently, Alabama brewers of which there aren’t many due to the regulations I’m about to try to explain, but including Birmingham’s own Good People Brewing Co. purveyor of many tasty brews that I enjoy as often as I can. So, here goes an attempt at explaining the current law. Currently, if the good folks at Good People or another budding brewery entrepreneur wants to open a brewery and sell their wares in Alabama, they have to first find a building designated as historic and do whatever needs to be done to retrofit it into a brewery rather than simply building from scratch. Also, that building has to be in a county where beer production was lawful before Prohibition and the brewers must find a distributor or local tavern to sell their beer because direct sales aren’t allowed. The historical building provision is designed with the admirable intention of preserving historic buildings. We all know where such intentions often lead and the unintended effect of that provision and the others is that the brewing industry, which if the old pictures at the 5 Points Jim ‘N Nicks and this Alabama commercial brewing history are to be believed was once a thriving industry here, has been hamstrung in Alabama. These provisions only apply to breweries, which seems unfair and possibly unconstitutional. If that seems as clear as mud, please go check out Free the Hops’ explanation of why this law needs to be changed. As always, the good folks at FTH have parsing and navigating our antiquated beer laws down to a science. (If you’re not already a member, why not join now?) Alabama Senate Bill 328, introduced by Senator Bobby Singleton, would get rid of all of the above restrictions and allow breweries to operate taprooms or restaurants where they could serve their tasty wares directly to thirsty customers. The House companion bill HB406, introduced by Representative Oliver Robinson, has already passed out of committee. Please encourage your Senator or Representative to support these bills and be sure to thank these gentlemen for sponsoring this legislation.

Another important piece of legislation, SB153, introduced by Senator Larry Dixon, would permit Alabama adults to brew beer, cider, mead and wine at home for personal consumption. Such legislation would bring us into parity with forty-seven other states as well as federal law, which as you may recall permits US residents to brew up to two hundred gallons of the aforementioned beverages each year for personal use. I myself have been known to engage in homebrewing from time to time and I know many other folks who regularly (though usually unintentionally) flout this law on a regular basis. Such a restriction serves no purpose and this, mostly unenforced, law needs to be stricken asap. Here’s how you can help. Get in touch with you Senators and urge them to make sure that SB153 is put on the Tourism and Marketing Committee’s agenda for this session, so that the full Senate can vote on it. Here are some talking points, courtesy of Free the Hops. And, of course, remember to thank Senator Dixon for introducing this legislation.

I know what you might be thinking: ” Man, I really want these two bills to become law, but emailing, faxing and calling down to Montgomery is hard. I just don’t know what to say, etc., etc, ad imnotgonnadoit.” As if the foregoing blocks of text weren’t exciting enough, I’m providing you with the text of an email I just sent to Senator Rodger Smitherman, my state senator who also happens to be on the Tourism and Marketing Committee:) To wit:

Hon. Senator [Your Senator's name],

I am writing you today to encourage you to support Senator Singleton’s legislation, SB328: The Alabama Brewery Modernization Act, to allow Alabama breweries to sell the beer that they brew on-site in a taproom, restaurant or combination of the two. The current restrictions prohibiting the sale at most breweries and the historical building and location requirements have proven a significant impediment to the growth of the brewing industry in this state and have not benefited Alabama in any way. Such restrictions arbitrarily handicap the brewing industry here at a time when we can ill afford such limits to economic growth. As the increase in business and profitability to many taverns across the state and to our own local brewery, Good People Brewing Co. located on Birmingham’s Southside, in the wake of last session’s passage of the Gourmet Beer Bill have demonstrated, Alabama’s beer connoisseurs are demanding more variety and better quality beers. With the exception of Good People and one or two other Alabama-based breweries, however, most of those gourmet beers are produced in other areas of the country. This bill would enable Alabama-based breweries to compete on an even footing with out-of-state breweries who are not subject to such antiquated restrictions. The House companion bill, HB406, has already passed out of committee.

I would also urge you to support SB153 introduced by Senator Dixon, which would remove legal restrictions on brewing beer, cider, mead and wine at home for personal consumption for Alabama residents. President Carter signed legislation in 1978 allowing Americans to brew up to two hundred gallons of beer, cider, mead or wine at home for personal consumption and forty-seven states already permit their residents to engage in the popular home brewing hobby. This bill is exactly the same legislation that passed out of the Alabama Tourism and Marketing Committee last session. Home brewers tend to be older, responsible residents whose family obligations or work schedules keep them from going out to enjoy craft brews at local establishments. Further, this bill will allow the home brew supply industry here to expand and potentially provide opportunities for local farmers to provide more of the agricultural ingredients necessary for brewing and wine making to these suppliers. Currently, SB153 is not on the Tourism and Marketing Committee’s agenda for this session. Please make sure that this legislation gets a hearing before the Committee.

For the reasons above, I urge you to continue your advocacy for economic growth in this state by supporting these important pieces of legislation and encouraging your colleagues to do the same.

Thank you for your time and attention in considering this matter.

Sincerely,

[Your name here]

So, there you go. Edit and remix as you see fit. Also works as a phone script:) Easy peasey lemon squeezy.