Tag Archives: beer laws

One Beer Article You Need To Read And Why, 2/13/17

Change is hard.  It is especially hard when your business model has been based on a law that gave you an advantage is changed to eliminate that advantage.  In Oklahoma (and Colorado), state laws have been changed to allow all stores with licenses to sell beer and wine to sell beer and wine over 3.2% ABV.  That means every Wal-Mart, grocery store, and convenience store in Oklahoma can sell pretty much anything besides liquor.  Now, bottle shops all over Oklahoma are going to have to rethink their business strategy.

Until this law, to buy real beer in Oklahoma you had to go to your local bottle shop.  Now, you will be able to buy a six-pack cheaper and more conveniently at a grocery store or Wal-Mart when you are doing your regular shopping.  That is a boon for shoppers, but the bottle shop owners are going to take a hit.  So, they are planning to sue the state in federal court.

The Retail Liquor Association who is suing on behalf of its members is not trying to get the law completely overturned.  They understand that the sentiment behind the law’s passing, but they want to change some aspects of it.

I don’t know what I think of this.  You have a new law that makes sense replacing an old law that stopped making sense as the craft beer world progressed.  That old law gave an advantage to a certain group of businesses who thrived under its growing inadequacy.  To suddenly take away that advantage is a shock to the system and requires a lot of hard choices in the immediate future for many of these businesses.  In Colorado where a similar law was passed, lawmakers included a 20-year phase in plan to ease the change.

The law needed to change, but the Retail Liquor Association was probably dealing from a position of weakness in whatever negotiations went on last year.  I’m sure the politicians looked at the polls which told them of the overwhelming support the proposed law had and I’m sure Wal-Mart, Target, and all the grocery stores were in the politician’s ears further encouraging the proposed law.  That and they were probably just in meetings setting stacks of $100s on the table as part of the negotiation (I’m sure only in a metaphorical sense).

Honestly, in these cases, there are no perfect solutions. Someone was getting screwed by this vote. Either the big box retailers that could only sell 3.2 beer or bottle shops that will now have to compete with them.  My advice for the bottle shops study states where similar laws have been in existence for a long time to find out how bottle shops there operate and distinguish themselves. The answer is probably to be the boutique alternative and be the experts that help customers so that they come back repeatedly and bring friends.

One Beer Article You Need To Read And Why, 11/13/16

The past week was dark and full of terrors.  From the election, to a US loss to Mexico in World Cup qualifying, to the oven at the bar going out, this has been a long and disappointing week at every step.  So, it is no surprise that today there is almost no beer news.  It is like the beer reporters and even the reporters who know nothing about beer, but are often tasked to write about it in some human-interest way, have taken the week off to recuperate.

I did find this story.  It is another story in the long list of stories that highlight how silly and patchwork alcohol laws are in this country.  It also highlights how laws can affect two similar businesses in different ways.  While some of the smaller distributors in Pennsylvania will suffer, I’m sure others will thrive and grow.  There are also a few articles out there about the soon death of 3.2 abv laws across the country.

From what I can tell in 5 minutes of internet research, only 3 states currently have 3.2 laws on the books.  Kansas, Utah, and Minnesota are the last hold outs now that Oklahoma has done a major rewrite of its alcohol laws.

What I find most interesting about these 3.2 laws is that I don’t think a majority of people want them.  Brewers hate them.  It is an added expense to brew beer specifically at that ABV and it makes it hard to your other beer in your own taproom.  The public doesn’t want it.  Wait.  Most the public doesn’t care.  Large retailers don’t want it.  Large distributors don’t want it.  So, why is it so hard to get rid of these laws.

Good question.  I’m glad you asked.  Here is my opinion.  Some people in each state want the laws for public safety concerns.  These are the people who don’t like alcohol anyway and look to limit the public’s access to it in order to keep the streets safe from destitute drunks wandering about causing mischief.  Some people in each state want the laws because it helps their businesses.  These are the small retailers and distributors who specialize in the small beer and know that provision is gone, their businesses must change or die.  That is just enough people to gum up the work of changing these laws.

If it is not too obvious I’m struggling here.  There isn’t even anything new or interesting at some of my favorite go-to places for beer news.  Usually, I can go to a couple of places and get a good article or a good line of thought that brings me to another article that is interesting.  Not today.  Today, the beer world has decided to take some time and figure out things.  I understand.

Hopefully, AB-InBev will buy another beloved craft brewery next week and we can all go back to carping and fretting about how AB uses all its money to limit our access to beer we probably never drank.  Of course, with AB-InBev money and distribution behind it, we will all get to drink it.  However, they will dumb it down and it will suck.  That last part isn’t sarcasm, that is what they do.

One Beer Article You Need To Read And Why, 10/23/16

Somewhere in the last year, the tide turned. I don’t know quite when it happened but it did. At some point, local governments across the country decided that the tax revenue generated by breweries was more important than “protecting” their citizens from the evils of alcohol.  It took almost 100 years, but alcohol is of more use as a revenue generator then it is a cudgel to enforce some version of morality.That is why articles like this pop up in newspapers every day.

I think craft beer and craft brewery culture is part of the reason this has happened.   Now, it is possible to get sloppy drunk at a brewery or a craft beer bar.  I’ve seen it done.  However, it is a rather expensive proposition to get drunk drinking that much $5 a pint beers.  Usually, when we cut someone off at Craft it is because we are like the 4th or 5th stop on that night’s bar hopping.

Let us not be stupid. Part of the reason craft beer people like beer is that it gets you a little drunk.  The operative word, being little.  There is an inclusive attitude inherent to craft beer you don’t get from macro light lagers. Using craft beer as a way to get blind drunk is expensive and inefficient.

Let me also caution, I’m not giving you the kumbaya, craft beer is a special snowflake that is above the crass marketing and pure business attitude of big beer.  Because it is not.  Craft beer is a great business.  You get to provide people with a product that aids in their having fun and, in the process you get to make a little money.  It’s much better than a real job.  Trust me.

Anyway, craft beer culture places taste above alcohol content.  This isn’t the gin lane from a William Hogarth fever dream.  If you have ever been to a brewery taproom at 2 o’clock on a Saturday, you are more likely to see a dog or a toddler then a bro looking to wasted.  This isn’t to say craft beer culture doesn’t have its own drunken buffoonery, but the majority of people who drink a lot of craft beer are rather mellow.  The culture breeds a kind of laid back attitude.

This gives politicians the license to promote breweries to increase tax revenue.  Tax revenue is shrinking as the cost of services increases in many places.  A lot of these cities and counties have fallow industrial properties perfect for breweries.  At the same time, the culture that craft beer represents isn’t seen the same way as “traditional” American beer or bar culture. This makes it acceptable enough to politicians.

I’m going to sit down and develop “Moe’s Alcohol Law Rule.”  In short, it will say anytime you see a new law involving alcohol, it is actually a law designed to increase tax revenue and not to promote or discourage alcohol sale or use.

One Beer Article You Should Read And Why, 8/8/16

We are going to try something different with the Five Articles.  At least for a little while.  Instead of 5 takes on 5 different articles, I want to try one take on one article in 500 words.

One of the things you notice when you pay attention to the news surrounding craft beer is how there is a learning curve that has to happen in many parts of the country about craft beer and its culture.  That is particularly true in places where alcohol has been historically demonized like the South and parts of the Mid-West.

I know in many places in the South, any consumption of alcohol is considered sinful and an aberration of “good” behavior.  There is fear that allowing easy access to alcohol will lead to things like “Beer Street” or “Gin Lane.”  William Hogarth’s painting is a depiction of what the wealthy and he upstanding thought happens when the poor and unwashed were given access to “demon alcohol.”

That idea of the degradation caused by unfettered access to alcohol led to the Prohibition movement in the United States which still persists.  When you combine that fear with the power many alcohol distributors and their lobby have in most state legislatures you can get situations like the one in Alabama.

Recently, Alabama passed a law to allow breweries to sell growlers.  As in many states where similar laws were recently passed, the distribution and big beer lobbies added in provisions to protect themselves.  In this case, one of those provisions is to limit individual purchases of growlers from breweries to 288 ounces at any one time.

First problem, this limit is only for brewery growlers.  You can buy more than one case of mass produced beer at your nearby gas station with no problem.  Second problem, as often happens when legislatures pass laws to either protect a certain lobby or to solve problems that don’t actually exist without putting much thought behind their actions (NC HB2 anyone), someone has to enforce those laws.  So, the Alabama alcohol beverage commission had to figure out how to regulate this 288-ounce limit and decided the best way to do it is to have breweries take down the name, address, and telephone numbers of anyone who buys growlers and give that information to the Alabama ABC. That went over like a fart in church.

So what will probably happen next is the Alabama legislature will have to go back and fix this, by taking out the limit on individual purchases and everyone will go on their merry way.  This could have been avoided if legislatures were populated by more people with enough common sense, intelligence, and respect for the legislative process to actually read and understand the stuff they are asked to vote on during a session.

The people we elect to represent us in state legislatures are supposed to be the smartest most community dedicated people in the room.  That is why we choose them to be our representatives.  Our spokespersons.  Unfortunately, what we seem to keep electing are the ones who can raise the most money.  Not the smartest and not the ones who care the most about the least of us.  And they are certainly not people dedicated enough to public service to read the things they are being asked to vote upon, much less care how these actual laws will affect the people and small businesses they are there to represent.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 6/7/16

Tuesday has arrived.  Yesterday was my first day since moving that I just got to chill in my new space.  It felt great to be home and not have to worry about packing, moving, or unpacking.  I still have a lot of stuff to do, but until I get the rest of my furniture there is no need. Onto the Five Articles.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 4/29/16

Today will be a quick and dirty Five Articles.

  • The Reinheitsgebot is an interesting thing. First, it is a tax law created to protect the use of bread making grains.  Second, I believe it is a good guide in how to make beer.  It reminds you to use simple ingredients and use them well.  Third, I think the strict adherence to any law or rule in a creative endeavor eventually stultifies any potential growth to that endeavor.  While I think German brewers need to move past the law, I also think they should remember it and use it as a guiding force going forward.
  • For some reason, I thought this case was already adjudicated. It is an interesting look at the Canadian constitution through a beer lens.  There are similar laws in the United States (including North Carolina and South Carolina), however, I don’t remember ever hearing anyone getting arrested for smuggling alcohol from one state to another.
  • There are not going to stop this pub from being built. Maybe all the noise they make will make it harder for the pub to gain traction, but it will be built and lots of people will drink there.  The San Diego craft beer community needs to move and beat AB by making better beer and being cooler people.  Provide a better and more organic atmosphere then you will get at a big corporate pub.  You can tell the difference when going into a locally owned bar and a corporate franchise.  Make that and a much better beer selection your selling points.
  • Here is how a few simple changes in state laws can goose an industry into profitability. New York has done a lot to change its alcohol laws in the past few years and they are starting to see the fruits of those changes.  It is a model many states should emulate.
  • This is something happening in small towns all across the state of North Carolina. Many of these towns are trying to attract tourists from in and outside of the state.  They are attempting to make themselves destinations for people to spend long weekends relaxing in the clean country air.  That is why it is interesting to watch the clash of these small towns with the people they are trying to attract. Again, this is why I don’t think the people who passed HB2 though past the immediate bump from their voters about what they were doing.  Not all the tourists you are trying to attract fit into your traditional definition of a couple or a family.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 4/26/16

You know there is a point where you figure out, you are getting old.  The amount of sleep you need and your ability to sleep through the night is one area.  There used to be a time where I could go to bed at 2, get up 7, and be fine.  I try that now and my sleep patterns are screwed up for a week.  Needless to say, I may have to catch another hour of sleep before I go into work today.  Anyway, here are the Five Articles.  Good stuff today.

  • The idea that a compromise was possible in Colorado was a tad more hopeful than sensible. The reasons are articulated perfectly in this article.  One side is being asked to give up part of their business model and the other side is being asked to give up winning a ballot initiative that will give them everything that they want.  At this point, the liquor stores need to figure out what their business model will look like after this thing passes.
  • This is a really light article. Not that it wasn’t well written or bad, just light.  It felt like eating cotton candy.  It is the kind of piece that is well written but you won’t remember what it was about 20 minutes after you read it.  Do consumers prefer cans or bottles?  Most honestly don’t care.  For a retailer, cans are easier to store and last longer on the shelf.  Also, you should never drink out of the can if at all possible.  Beer always tastes better if poured into a glass.
  • Sometimes you see the headline of an article and think, “I agree with that.” Then you read the article and something about the writer’s tone annoys you and his path to the conclusion annoys you and you begin to think maybe I’m wrong with my position.  This is that article for me.  For some reason, I also don’t think the writer truly believes what he is writing and that is the greatest sin a writer can commit.
  • This is a good article on what to look for in a good IPA. There are too man IPAs right now.  Mostly, because they are the easiest style to brew.  That doesn’t mean all of them are good.  Most of them are drinkable and some of them are good and a few are great.  One thing the article didn’t mention is to beware of IPAs whose recipes have changed without the brewer telling anyone.  It is getting harder and harder to get hops in the quantities needed to make IPAs, DIPAs, and triple IPAs.  Your favorite IPA might not be the IPA you fell in love with.
  • Here is a tight little article about the beer of Western NC that doesn’t focus on Asheville solely.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 4/17/16

I love beer (I have a blog dedicated to it so that seems rather obvious).  Outside of the beer, there are a couple of things surrounding craft beer that really interest me. One is the idea of brewing as a creative art that should be critiqued and studied as such (I’m working on a couple of bigger pieces that explores this).  Two is the confluence of beer with business and law.  The second interests me because alcohol has such an interesting place in society and its perception is so different across different parts of this society.  Among other things, with craft beer you can look at how governments treat business and how the treatment of drinking culture changes from generation and socio-economic strata.  Anyway, here is a bunch of articles about beer that are more about business and law than actual beer.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 4/14/16

Your body needs sleep.  My body taught me that this weekend.  After a week or so of working 40+ hours, trying to get up and write early, trying to read, and driving 90 minutes a day to and from work, my body said, “You need to sleep a lot.”  I finally started feeling normal yesterday and I am back, hopefully with no other breaks.  I have also been powering through a book that I want to use as the basis for a big blog post (or series of posts) on how I see what kind of beer reviewer/critic I want to attempt to be.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 3/24/16

I don’t understand how a state that purports to promote business and wants to bring businesses in from other states passes laws that socially will prevent businesses from other states from expanding or moving to that state.  Killing a gnat with a bazooka is never a good idea.