As most of you are no doubt aware, Governor Riley signed the Gourmet Beer Bill into law on Friday. While I’d like to think that my first post as Birmingham’s Political Issues Examiner this past Thursday had something to do with it, the truth is that this victory is the result of the efforts of thousands of folks working for years to have freedom of beverage choice here in Alabama. Many of those folks, including myself, were celebrating this victory at the J. Clyde on Friday.

The real drivers of this change were the leaders, members and fellow travellers of Free the Hops who have proven that a committed grassroots movement can effect change in Alabama. Going from an idea to such a force in less than five years is nothing short of incredible, especially considering the political climate in this state and the fact that many of our politicians use their pharisaical opposition to all alcoholic beverages as a campaign plank. I, for one, will relish my first taste of Alabama-bought high-gravity beer as the sweet taste of freedom commingled with victory.

Of course every silver lining has a touch of grey, so we can’t forget that the battle for free brews is not over in here in the heart of dixie. As Danner Kline reminds us:

While the post below is titled “The Hops Are Free,” that’s not entirely correct. Raising the ABV limit was the primary reason I started FTH, and it was always our highest priority, but there are other antiquated, asinine laws oppressing the craft beer industry in this state. We’ll be having lots of discussions in the coming days about what to do next year, but rest assured we will continue to fight for sane beer regulation in Alabama, and there is much work left to be done. And we still need your help. So stay tuned — we’ve proven a grassroots effort can change Alabama law for the better. Let’s keep up the good work.

The restrictions on container size, homebrewing and brewpubs remain in place and will likely prove as difficult, if not moreso, to remove. I have it on good authority that the container size restriction (no bottles above 16 ounces) will likely be the next target for Free the Hops. We need to keep pushing for more freedom and fewer needless and arbitrary laws that make criminals out of folks who aren’t doing anything wrong.


5 Responses to “The Hops are Free (-er:)!”  

  1. 1 fats

    Yes, grass roots campaigns can bring about change. Now imagine what we could do if we concentrated on something important.

  2. 2 tom

    “This affects all of us Dude! I’m staying. I’m finishing my coffee.”:)

    Seriously though, beer is not really the issue in my mind, it’s all about freedom. Imagine instead that there was a law against wearing red on Sundays or something you would consider rather silly. Now, that law really doesn’t affect anyone that much, does it? It’s just one day of the week and it’s pretty easy to wear another color. Heck, you can always go to Georgia or Tennessee and wear red there if you want to. It’s just a silly little law that doesn’t really hurt anyone except those die-hard red-wearing folks. It might cause some issues if Christmas falls on a Sunday, but the law is likely to turn a blind eye then. Absurd? Of course and so are the current restrictions on beer in this state, which are extremely unlikely to cause any of the harms that opponents of reform claim: http://www.freethehops.org/legislative/_booklets/thefthbooklet_2009_latestdraft.pdf.

    Even though this particular restriction doesn’t affect you, it sets a precedent that the busybodies in Montgomery have the power to stick their noses where they don’t belong. Today it’s people’s pint glasses and tomorrow it might be something that you like and enjoy, but some legislator decides he or she doesn’t, so they ban it. There are a lot of problems in society and the political process is not only a poor tool to deal with nearly all of them, it lends itself to such abuse that even good efforts are unrecognizable on the other end. We like to say that the law is an ass, which it certainly is, but I think Dickens said it best:

    “The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme, and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.”

    The legislators opposing FTH’s efforts are either mistaken in their belief that outlawing certain types of beverages is an effective means of changing hearts and minds or they are politicians of the worst sort (but i repeat myself) in that they are using their alleged faith and that of their supporters to advance their political careers and secure reelection. I think that opposing such efforts is as worthy a cause as you can find.

  3. 3 Stan

    Thomas, I stumbled upon your blog and I have to say I am impressed – you are quite a thoughtful writer.

    While I am not much of a imbiber, I have been fascinated for years with wine-making, and had thought it might be interesting to try. Imagine my shock (actually!) when I found out this year that Alabama is one of the few states (they could be the ONLY state, for all I know) that prohibits home-brewing and home wine-making. Ouch. In some respects I don’t think we are as free as we think we are.

    So I hope “Free the Hops” one day prevails in that area too.

    I’ll be back to your site, and will, I’m sure, see you around church too.

  4. 4 Stan

    Incidentally, this analysis of the freedom rankings of the 50 states has Alabama as #21 in order of overall rank of most free:

    http://www.mercatus.org/uploadedFiles/Mercatus/Publications/Freedom%20in%20the%2050%20States.pdf

    I don’t really see any reason to argue with their ranking.

  5. 5 tom

    Thanks Stan! I too hope that FTH prevails in removing the restrictions on homebrewing and the remaining needless limits on the making, selling and responsible enjoyment of beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages.

    I think the Mercatus ranking is dead on, unfortunately. I’m glad that folks like FTH and other groups are working to make us more free:) I will definitely see you at church. Thanks for checking out my site:)

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