Thursday, April 19, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Alabama, Mississippi enter an era of craft beer enlightenment

At the beginning of this month, brewing beer in your kitchen was as illegal as producing bathtub gin if you happened to live in Alabama. In early March, the same could be said for your neighbors next door in Mississippi.

But in March, a bill to legalize home brewing passed in Mississippi, and Alabama followed suit last week, making home brew legal in all 50 states.

You may be surprised to learn that brewing your own beer was previously illegal anywhere in the country. It's a fairly innocuous hobby; soaking grains in hot water to make them sugary, boiling the resulting liquid in some water with flowers, then adding yeast to the solution hardly seems like felony material. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and — of course — Samuel Adams were all home brewers, as were many Americans in Colonial times.

Blame Prohibition. The ban on brewing beer at home was one of the longest lasting relics from that ill-conceived attempt at making Americans stop having fun. Most states started allowing folks to whip up their own beer back in the late '70s, when home brewing became legal again under federal law, but it took a while for everyone to catch on. Utah and Oklahoma have only come on board within the past four years, and now, Alabama and Mississippi residents are free to fire up their brew kettles at will.

Well, almost. Federal law already restricts the amount of beer that one can brew at home — 100 gallons per year for individual adults, or 200 gallons per household. It sounds like a lot, but with friends constantly refilling pints of your house pale ale, it can go quickly. In Alabama, the situation is severe; brewers are limited to 15 gallons every three months, putting a cap on output at 60 gallons per year. For most home brewers who produce 5-gallon batches, that's only one brew a month.

Considering that state employees in Alabama were actively raiding shops that sold home-brewing equipment as recently as last year, 60 gallons is still a major victory. Even with heavy restrictions in place in Alabama, the fact that residents of all 50 states can finally brew legally is a big deal, and it indirectly shows that beer's reputation is cleaning up nicely.

It's not unreasonable to point to craft beer's continued rise in popularity as the reason for this evolution. Beer is shedding its image as a lowbrow, crude product, desirable solely for its drunkenness-inducing properties, and it's most certainly due to the fact that the average citizen is developing a taste for double IPAs and barrel-aged saisons. The legalization of home brewing in Mississippi and Alabama is as much a PR victory for beer in general as it is a boon to the estimated 7,000 home brewers in those states.

Craft-beer advocacy groups also played a big role in this. The Right To Brew organization was instrumental in getting Alabama's recent bill passed, and Mississippi's Raise Your Pints organization even employed lobbyists to help gain traction in the state capital.

Of course, not everyone's celebrating. In Alabama, one of the most vocal opponents of the bill to legalize home brewing in the state was the nebulously named Citizens' Action Program, whose executive director, Joe Godfrey, insists that alcohol is "bad for our culture and our society." The group is concerned that beer's "mind-bending" properties will contribute to a sharp rise in alcoholism.

But alcohol is already legal to purchase in most parts of Alabama, as well as Mississippi. Forbidding home brewing as a hobby out of fear of rampant alcoholism when people can much more easily buy a $7 bottle of vodka at the liquor store is absurd at best, and disingenuous at worst.

The real effect of the legalization of home brewing will not be streets filled with drunken zombies, brains twisted from excessive home-brew consumption; it'll be people enjoying the fun, time-honored pastime that the rest of the country has been partaking in for years.

Cheers to the states of Mississippi and Alabama for making it happen.

[email protected]

Comments
On 4/20, a Tampa distillery is releasing hemp-infused Touch Vodka

On 4/20, a Tampa distillery is releasing hemp-infused Touch Vodka

TAMPA — Appropriately enough, a local distillery is releasing a hemp vodka on Friday, 4/20.After more than a year of planning and research, Fat Dog Spirits — the parent company of Touch Vodka — is releasing its new Nirvana vodka.Served in 750-millile...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Graze all day at Armature Works

Graze all day at Armature Works

TAMPA HEIGHTS— Graze 1910 upholds the comfortable and relaxing, yet elegant setting of Armature Works with its "comfort food" offerings and dedication to serving breakfast all day."It’s the way I eat. I graze all day," said owner Raymond "Ray" Menend...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bar review: London Heights British Pub in Tampa

Bar review: London Heights British Pub in Tampa

As a person who has no intention of ever going into the bar business, I spend a good amount of time thinking about what makes bar concepts work. I think about themes, branding, menus, location and myriad other factors that ultimately play into a bar’...
Published: 04/19/18
Richard’s Rockin’ Birthday Starfruit Lambic, Ulele

Richard’s Rockin’ Birthday Starfruit Lambic, Ulele

To celebrate the birthday of its owner, Richard Gonzmart, Tampa’s Ulele restaurant tapped its most ambitious brew yet (with a name to match): Richard’s Rockin’ Birthday Starfruit Lambic.Unlike traditional Belgian lambics — sour ales spontaneously fer...
Published: 04/19/18
Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

For nearly 60 years it was breads, cakes and pastries, up before dawn for the Perrone family in Armenia Garden Estates. For a minute it looked like Tampa’s Housewife Bake Shop was going to close, but third-generation owner Tena Perrone said on Wednes...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

TERRA GAUCHATerra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse, a classic churrascaria-style Brazilian meatery — you know, where the guys in South American cowboy attire walk around with the swords of meat until you capitulate in a carnivorous haze — has opened a loc...
Published: 04/18/18
We critique the best and worst brands of sparkling water

We critique the best and worst brands of sparkling water

Sparkling water, much like when you shake it before opening, has exploded in the United States the past few years. The fervor for fizzy water has soft echoes of the meteoric rise of bottled water during the early 2000s, just with more pastels perfect...
Published: 04/18/18
How much water do I need? Plus, other H20 facts

How much water do I need? Plus, other H20 facts

Okay, really, how much water do we need? The Mayo Clinic says there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for this because of differences in exercise, environment, overall health and factors like pregnancy or breast-feeding. The National Academies of Science...
Published: 04/18/18
A taste test for drinking water? They can be surprisingly different

A taste test for drinking water? They can be surprisingly different

BROOKSVILLEThey brought it in glass carboys, in jars, in 2-liter bottles. It stacked up at the entrance to the auditorium, some of it just slightly murky but most of it crystal clear.Water. For more than 15 years the members of Region IV Florida Sect...
Published: 04/18/18
Five ideas for travel-friendly snacks

Five ideas for travel-friendly snacks

Whenever I fly, I pay way too much for food. I’ve stumbled jet-lagged into fancy wine booths and nearly bankrupted myself with cheese plates. I’ve purchased granola bars that cost more than my plane ticket (okay, maybe it just felt that way). If you’...
Published: 04/18/18