In the last couple of years, North Carolina and Georgia beer lovers successfully mounted "Pop the Cap" lobbying efforts to change outdated and nonsensical laws that had kept the alcohol content of beer to around 5 percent alcohol by weight. Now bills are being considered in Alabama, South Carolina and West Virginia that would open the door to a range of craft beers and imports.
Proponents of the legislation note that under current laws about a third of the world's beer styles or illegal to sell in the three states. The cap means that drinkers cannot enjoy many Belgian ales, barleywine is out and just about any style with the word "Imperial" in the name is forbidden.
In Alabama, state Sen. Parker Griffith has introduced a bill that would increase the limit from 6 percent to 14.9 percent. Beer lovers in the state are also trying to get the legislature to allow bigger format bottles. Right now beer can not be sold in cans or bottles that are larger than 16 ounces.
In West Virginia, the bill would allow beer to have up to 15 percent alcohol. Interestingly, one of the groups fighting the measure are beer wholesalers. The West Virginia Gazette quoted John Casey, lobbyist for the West Virginia Beer Wholesalers Association, as saying "We think alcohol should be consumed in moderation, and increasing the alcohol content is going away from moderation. As a society, I don't know if we want to be pushing a higher alcohol content."
Makes you wonder which side Mr. Casey is on -- it's certainly not the side of good beer and beer lovers. You can probably guess which brands the largest members of the WVBWA sell. A stance like this makes it easy for a legislator to vote against the measure. They have the cover of saying "the industry did not want the bill" in voting to limit consumer choice.