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America's dumbest beer laws (yep, Florida makes the list)

Beer is often considered the everyman's drink: Affordable, approachable and easily accessible.

And while craft brewers have worked hard to elevate the status of beer in the minds of consumers, they have had to battle both consumer ignorance and a labyrinthine maze of legislative red tape.

While beer at its most basic level is simple and easygoing, the laws that regulate it are anything but. In an attempt to shed some light on the darker and more shadowy recesses of our nation's beer laws, I present the Five Stupidest Beer Laws in the United States.

5. Pennsylvania's case law

Imagine if every time you wanted to have a beer at home, you thought, "That is going to cost at least 25 bucks for something decent." Well if you live in Pennsylvania and don't want to pay the crazy margins of the few outlets that are legally allowed to sell broken cases, that is your reality. Pennsylvania residents, for the most part, are restricted from buying the obligatory sixer.

4. Alcohol by volume caps

Though most states have now overturned them, many states (especially southern states) have long had alcohol by volume caps. Final alcohol by volume is usually an expression of the beginning sugar content of a beer, and in many respects the ultimate flavor concentration of a beer.

An easy general rule for beer is the higher the beginning sugar content, the higher the potential final flavor concentration. Many states — Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Utah and Alabama, for example — have limited alcohol content for beer in the past, though oddly, not the alcohol content of wine or liquor.

3. Utah's 4 percent cap on draft beer

If you want to drink a beer in Utah that weighs in higher than 4 percent alcohol by weight, you better like bottled beers, because otherwise, it is illegal to sell beer that is over 4 percent. In addition to their draft cap, Utah sports a draconian measure preventing beer more than 5 percent alcohol by volume from being sold anywhere but liquor stores.

2. Alabama's alcohol by volume cap

While other states have had alcohol caps, Alabama has set the bar for resisting any increase in the alcohol cap. At 6 percent alcohol by volume, max, Alabama's recently overturned cap precluded the majority of the world's highly regarded beers from being sold in Alabama. But it isn't the existence of this law that earns Alabama its spot on this list. Rather, it is the exceptionally humorous response of Alabama state Rep. Alvin Holmes to the bill. Holmes' reaction can be summed up as, "What's wrong with the beer we got? It drinks pretty good, don't it?" To truly appreciate Holmes' objections to raising the Alabama beer cap, you real­ly heed to hear it in his own words. See the video at

1. Florida's growler/bottle size law

A growler is a glass bottle designed to be filled with beer at a brewery or brewpub and taken home for later consumption. If you grew up in Florida, you likely have never heard the word. If you grew up in the northeast or just about anywhere else, you probably have heard it.

The reason for Floridan ignorance of growlers is due in large part to a an archaic law preventing beer sold in Florida from being in vessels greater than 32 ounces. The standard growler size is half a gallon, 64 ounces. Which means most Floridians have never had the pleasure of buying beer in its freshest state, right from the brewery.

Sadly, unlike most of the nation's stupid beer laws, Florida's antiquated bottle size law isn't likely to change soon.

— Joey Redner is a beer enthusiast and the owner of Cigar City Brewing in Tampa.

America's dumbest beer laws (yep, Florida makes the list) 06/04/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:19pm]
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