Now that we've been enjoying the high-gravity craft beers that are the fruit of the "Free the Hops" group's four-plus years of lobbying labors, the group is turning its attention to laws about brewing in the state. Here's how Free the Hops President Stuart Carter explained it in an e-mail I got this morning:
For the 2010 legislative session, we will be introducing the Brewery Modernization Act. Now that we can buy some of the greatest beer from around the world, we think it's time to make it easier for Alabamians to make some of the greatest beer in the world. Unfortunately, there are only four breweries in Alabama, and half of those aren't allowed to serve you beer.
The two breweries that are allowed sell their beer on-premises - Hurricane Brewing in Mobile and Montgomery Brewing - are lucky enough to have met all the requirements for opening a brewpub in Alabama. Such a license is only available in a handful of counties, and then only if located in an historic building. Even after meeting those (and more) requirements, they're not allowed to sell their beer outside of the brewpub.
The other two breweries in Alabama - Good People in Birmingham and Olde Towne in Huntsville - have more freedom on where they can open and sell. However, the current law effectively cuts them off from the beer-drinking public. Many breweries outside of Alabama offer brewery tours with samples and/or a tasting room where you can try their beer on-location. Alabama's breweries are not allowed to do either.
Is it any surprise that Alabama has only four licensed breweries while Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee share over 70?
The goal of the Brewery Modernization Act is to take the complicated, restrictive and multi-tiered brewery licensing law and turn it into a more simple law. As intended, the result will be:
1. No more distinction between "distributing breweries" and brewpubs. There's just "breweries."
2. Breweries can sell their beer on-premises and/or they can sell to a wholesaler. So Olde Towne and Good People can continue doing what they're doing PLUS they can open up a taproom or brewpub at their location. The Montgomery Brewpub and Hurricane Brewing can continue doing what they're doing PLUS they can start bottling or selling draft beer at other retailers.
3. Breweries can open in any wet county, don't have to be in an historic building, don't have to have a restaurant, and don't have a cap on how much beer they can brew.
4. Breweries are specifically allowed to offer tours with samples.
5. Breweries are specifically allowed to participate in beer festivals.
With the current state of the economy, shouldn't we be making it easier to open and operate a small business in Alabama?
We expect the bill to be drafted very soon and introduced into the legislature next week. The best way to keep up with the bill and know when it's been drafted and introduced is by keeping an eye on the Free the Hops blog or follow Free the Hops on Twitter.