Free the Hops Movement
Alabama Craft Beer enthusiasts have started a Free the Hops movement that includes boycotting Budweiser products distributed by Birmingham Budweiser. This movement is inspired by delays in changing the archaic laws that prevents the sale of beer higher than 6%. This limits the sale of most craft beers which are currently in New England.
In particular, styles such as Imperial Stouts, Double IPA's, Scotch ales, and Barleywines could never be enjoyed by those in Alabama. Also, the 2Beerguys would be unable to host their Belgian education class. This is down-right terrible!! I agree that it is time to end antiquated and arbitrary laws discriminating beer
After seeing this mentioned on BeerAdvocate's website, I decided to investigate further. Starting with http://freethehops.org/, I learned that:
"Free The Hops -- Alabamians For Specialty Beer is a grassroots, non-profit organization whose mission is to help bring the highest quality beers in the world to Alabama. These beers are commonly referred to as craft beers due to the skill and artistry required to brew them, but they are also appropriately classified as specialty or gourmet. You might think of them as the Mercedes of beers."
Generally stating that beers over 6% can not be sold is some what difficult to image. But knowing that only 1 or 2 of the top 100 beers in the world can be found in Alabama brings this issue to reality. "By law, they simply cannot be sold here. That is what Free The Hops is trying to change. We want to give Alabamians the option to choose the Mercedes of beers."
Alabama isn't alone in this struggle. Residents in Mississippi and West Virginia are handicapped by this same issue. Up until very recently, South Carolina was included in this list, but on MAY 7th, 2007, the Governor of SC signed into law a bill that raised their limit to 17.5% ABV. Currently, there are movements to reform the law in both WV and MS, while the voice of the Alabamians are falling on deaf ears.
It is rather strange, knowing that there aren't any restrictions on Wine or Spirit sales, that this law isn't changed already. It seems to be a no brainer, but those lobbying against this change have a firm grip. They are worried that their market share and profit margins will reduce when customers are given a choice.
What are the Risks? (as stated by Free the Hops)
- Underage drinkers are not interested in specialty beer. Underage youth don’t want—and can’t afford—high ABV beers. Strong beers are an acquired taste meant for sipping and savoring and do not appeal to young adults. Moreover, strong ales are vastly more expensive than the other beer choices available and out of the price range of the average student’s beer budget.
- There is no link between drinking-related fatalities and alcohol by volume laws. According to data from MADD , states with no alcohol by volume restrictions actually have a 6% LOWER RATE of alcohol-related fatalities than the national average. While this doesn’t establish a causal link, the data refutes the argument that allowing strong beers will increase the number of drinking-related incidents. In fact, Ohio saw a decrease in such incidents following its recent move to remove the artificial constraint on beer.
- Finally, we're just as against drunk driving as you are. Most Free The Hops members are parents who are adamantly opposed to illegal or abusive drinking, and we believe these specialty beers will not contribute to such behavior.
What can you do?
It is as simple as GETTING INVOLVED. I think it is easier said than done. In a state, where there aren't any alternatives, it will difficult to encourage everyone to boycott all beer sales. Yes, those on border towns can spend time and money in search for craft beer, but how long will this last with the rising gas prices. The best thing to do would be to create a strong voice.
Speak with your local government officials. Find out who their friends and families are. Learn where they eat and do have their business. Spread the word to those who can make a difference. Elect those into office who are in favor.
To find out more and/or to join the cause, please visit: http://www.freethehops.org
Make Drink Craft Beer available for everyone!!