Success so far
- With the signing into law of Free The Hops' Gourmet Beer Bill in May 2009, one major restriction on beer in Alabama was significantly loosened. This law increased the limit on alcohol by volume (ABV) in beer from 6% to 13.9%. This was a huge step for beer lovers across the state.
- We continued our mission to Free The Hops in Alabama, and in May 2011 passed the Brewery Modernization Act, which allows breweries to sell on-premises like a brewpub, or to wholesalers, or to both, and removed the crippling restrictions which prevented new breweries and brewpubs from opening. In the last 2 years, 3 taprooms have opened in Birmingham (Avondale, Cahaba and Good People), and 2 in Huntsville (Blue Pants and Straight To Ale).
- In May 2012 we passed the Gourmet Bottle Bill, allowing the sale of bottles up to 25.4oz (750ml). This came into effect August 2012.
Still to come
There are still a number of other restrictions on beer and brewing in the state.
- Brewpubs must meet the stringent requirement of being located in a historic or economically distressed district in a county that's been consistently wet since before Prohibition.
- Home brewers - the keystone for most craft breweries - face similar antiquated restrictions.
FTH supports the removal of these and other arbitrary restrictions on beer brewing and sales.
Brewpubs are burdened with a number of arbitrary and unnecessary restrictions. One of the more notable restrictions is that they can only open in a county in which beer was brewed for public consumption prior to prohibition. (The requirement to be in a historic district was recently altered to include those designated "economically distressed" by the regulating municipality.) Brewpubs are also not allowed to bottle their beer for off premises consumption, as found in the following section of The Code of Alabama:
"(3) Beer brewed by the brewpub licensee shall be packaged or contained in barrels from which the beer is to be dispensed only on the premises where brewed for consumption on the premises or sold in original, unopened barrel or keg containers to any designated wholesaler licensee for resale to retailer licensees. " §28-4A-3(a-3)
These restrictions make it difficult for brewpubs to open and operate. Forbidding brewpubs from bottling their own beer for sale elsewhere cuts off a major source of potential income for them and obviously, limiting the counties in which a brewpub can open based on the history of brewing prior to Prohibition is a senseless restriction which keeps the number of brewpus in the state at a minimum. FTH supports the removal of these restrictions, and introduced legislation in 2011 to change them, but this restriction still stands.
The Code of Alabama, §28-1-1, prohibits the possession of any type of equipment used for the production of
alcoholic beverages. It further prohibits the possession of any form of alcohol that was made
illegally. As such, homebrewing is effectively illegal in Alabama and yet even law officials regular participate in this hobby,
buying supplies openly and sharing recipes. After all, if the President does it, how can it be illegal?
Despite this, and the fact that homebrew kits can be purchased in Alabama at Wal-Mart, homebrewers and those who supply them run the risk of having expensive equipment confiscated, being arrested - possibly jailed - and losing their jobs.
"In all counties of the state it shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to have in his or its possession any still or apparatus to be used for the manufacture of any alcoholic beverage of any kind or any alcoholic beverage of any kind illegally manufactured or transported within the state or imported into the state from any other place without authority of the alcoholic control board of the state, and any person, firm or corporation violating this provision or who transports any illegally manufactured alcoholic beverages or who manufactures illegally any alcoholic beverages shall, upon conviction, be punished as provided by law." §28-1-1As with a number of other beer-related restrictions, Alabama finds itself in very small company with its prohibition of homebrewing. No other state has similar prohibitions. Even Mississippi is legalizing homebrewing this year. Alabama's homebrewers organized and introduced legislation to remove this restriction every year since 2009, though they have yet to get a bill past both houses. FTH supports the repeal of this restriction, and hopes to see it removed in 2013.