Sunday, January 30, 2011

NSR: More Alabama Breweries and New Brewing Law?

Today, I'd like to share with you something that is near and dear to me, but is NSR or not soccer related.  I've posted many times that I like my beer.  Sometimes my soccer and beer interests intermingle, but this post is all about the beer.  

I used to be the typical Amerian beer drinker, who went to the beer aisle and picked up a sixer from one of the major breweries, but then in college I took a trip to Bavaria and was hit over the head and awoken from my beer drinking slumber by how rich and flavorful beer could be.  Since then, I have sought out beer that offers more than the "flavored water" of the major brewery offerings.
In fact, when I got married, I went to the local small batch brewery in Northern Virginia and self-brewed a celebratory brew that I served at my wedding reception.  And when I moved to Alabama, one of the first things I did was join Free the Hops, a group of Alabamian beer aficionados who lobby the Alabama legislators to change the all to restrictive Alabama beer laws.  
Due to archaic laws left over from prohibition and propped up by the major breweries who were trying to prevent competition, Alabama had become a beer desert with local Huntsville brewery Olde Towne being one of the only oases.  In order to change this, FTH proposed the Gourmet Beer Law, that was passed in 2009 after three years of constant support.

Since then, Alabama has experienced a renaissance of beer culture.  In the past year alone, Huntsville has seen three new craft breweries open.  Joining Olde Towne is Straight to Ale, BluePants, and Yellowhammer.  Now, news is breaking that there will be two new Alabama breweries in Old Black Bear and Avondale joining Good People and Back Forty who have been Alabama breweries for a while. 

This is great news for Alabama beer, but still, there is work to be done in Alabama when it comes to beer and brewing.  Remember the archaic laws I mentioned above, there are a few laws in particular that precludes brewpubs and breweries from operating freely unless they meet restrictions that are anti-business and just silly.

The first is that brewpubs must be located in a historic building, in a wet county or city, in which beer was brewed prior to prohibition.  This reduces the location of brewpubs to old and decrepit buildings that are often not in ideal business locations and cuts out large swathes of the state from consideration.  Renovating these buildings and retrofitting them to include modern brewing equipment can be prohibitively costly.

The second is that brewpubs cannot package their beers for sale anywhere but inside the brewpub.  So, if you loved the beer the brewpub sells, you cannot fill up a growler or buy a six pack to take home.  Nor can you find that beer on tap at another bar.  In order to enjoy that brew, you must drink it in the brewpub.   
Brewpubs often offer tastings of their brews and beer to go.  Show above Nimbus Brewing from my recent trip to Arizona.  Unfortunately, Alabama breweries cannot offer these types of service.

In the same vein of ill logic, Alabama also restricts actual breweries from allowing brewery tours with samples of there beer or from opening tasting rooms. 

The result of these restrictions is that Alabama has exactly ZERO operating brewpubs.

In an effort to change this, FTH has proposed the Brewery Modernization Act for the 2011 legislative session.  If you'd like to join the effort to help bring brewpubs to your town, county and state, join Free The Hops and/or contact your local legislators and ask them to support the Brewery Modernization Act.  
Heck, maybe one of these future brewpubs will welcome soccer fans and become the desperately needed "Soccer Bar" that we've been looking for.  :)

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