Tag Archives: craft beer laws

One Beer Article You Need To Read And Why, 10/27/16

Somewhere around two years ago, the North Carolina craft beer community got a shock to its system.  The Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) arm of the Department of Public Safety closed a few beer festivals.  Why?  Servers at the beer festival were taking the opportunity to go around and taste other beers.  You see in North Carolina it is illegal for someone who is serving beer to drink while on duty or while wearing their uniform.  Bars and restaurants followed this rule with no problems.  However, most craft beer people didn’t know this new interpretation of the rule now included festivals.  Tasting beer is one of the incentives for volunteering for to pour at a beer festival for brewery and distribution reps.  That is one of the main draws to get volunteers for the Great American Beer Festival.

Under the ALE interpretation, that is now verboten.  So is having a post-shift beer at the place you work even if the establishment has closed for the day.  Bartenders can no longer pour themselves a beer to sip as they sweep and mop.  Again, under ALE interpretation, you are still on duty.

Now, as this Free-Times article highlights, South Carolina’s craft beer community is coming under the same scrutiny from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).  Basically, SLED contacted the SC Department of Revenue to get a ruling on whether nonprofits are retailers for these types of events because in SC brewers can’t have any direct dealing with retailers.  Not only is it illegal for brewers to donate beer directly to a nonprofit retailer, they cannot pour their own beer at a festival sponsored by the nonprofit retailer.  In this case, the SC Brewer’s Guild was considered a nonprofit retailer so brewers (members of the guild) couldn’t pour their own beers.

Without getting into the weeds of the absurdity of this particular situation, the larger point is somehow craft beer is succeeding in this country when the laws that govern it change from state to state.  They can also change from year to year depending upon who is interpreting and how they are interpreting the laws that govern beer and alcohol.

Here are my problems with alcohol laws in this country:

  1. Most of the laws affecting craft beer culture were written years before the idea of craft beer was even conceived.
  2. The hodge-podge nature of alcohol laws vary from state to state is more than just an annoyance for brewers.
  3. Alcohol law enforcement is poorly funded and staffed. Plus, staff, like the rest of general population, is just learning about craft beer and how its culture is different from a traditional beer and alcohol culture. Also, that culture is often imported from other states where craft beer is better established and the laws are different creating somewhat of a culture clash.

The people I feel worst for are the government officials and agents tasked with interpreting and enforcing these laws.  They are hamstrung by the 3 problems I just listed.  I think each state should create a commission to study how to modernize its alcohol laws and change them to fit our times and culture.  Of course, that could just make things worse.

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, 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, 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.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 10/23/15

It’s Friday.  What more needs to be said.  Go to work then on your way home have a beer and plan your beer drinking weekend.

  • I hate whales.  Not the marine mammals, but the beers whose rarity increase their value among some beer drinkers.  These are the kind of beers people will line up at 2 am to get in line to buy.  These are the kind of beers people will gladly overpay to buy.  If you are a beer drinker who is buying these beers to drink, I can understand.  I refuse to pay that much for a beer, but I understand.  The people I hate are the same bottom feeders who lurk in every capitalist venture that will buy the beers then auction them off for 10 times what the original insane price was.  This is one of the bad parts of craft beer.
  • I hate to break it to some of the people quoted in this article, but they will be greatly disappointed when this merger is approved. There will be some restrictions placed on the merger (MillerCoors will be sold and hopefully the distributors will be sold).  They will experience further disappointment when this merger doesn’t have the dire effects they believe it will have. It will have effects, but most of which are unknown at the moment.
  • If you think about it, the way the Georgia growler laws happened is very logical. The distributors, always one of the most powerful lobbies in state legislatures, worked it so that they would back off their opposition and get a seat at the table to write the law.  Of course, the law would make no logical sense.  They probably could have done 15 other things to keep the law from passing or to neuter it without making it silly, but they have, in my opinion, overplayed their hand and united the brewers they were trying to screw into a more unified and determined bunch.  People who have power, but don’t know how to effectively use it, always manage to shoot off their own foot in the end.
  • Here is a good article about how craft brewing is becoming a boon for farmers, in this case, South Carolina farmers. They are being helped not only by the craft beer industry in North Carolina, but the formerly dormant South Carolina craft beer industry.
  • I would love to see the Brewers Association or someone do a survey of every brewer in every state to find out what beers brewers would rank as the best in each state. Instead, we keep getting news organizations regurgitating RateBeer, Beer Advocate, or Untappd rankings and reporting them as news for clickbait. Here is your clickbait photo array of the day.