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