On the state of delicious adult beverages

Here are some random tidbits pertaining to the drink:

  • Last night’s tasting at M&T was super duper. I got my nerd on about barley of the malted variety, and the nice, paying customers did an excellent job of pretending to listen. For those of you who weren’t there, you now know less about beer than you could. I hope you’re happy. Initially, I was going to do hops next week and then North vs. South the week after, but in a profound moment of “Oh right, of course,” it was decided that week 3 will cover the topic of yeast. This decision was prompted by several excellent questions from attendees where I found myself answering, “No, that flavor comes from the yeast.” Really, it was like someone wrote DUH on a brick and threw it at my forehead. So, the schedule:

    -2/28: What’s the deal with malt?
    -3/6: What’s the deal with hops?
    -3/13: What’s the deal with yeast?

    $15 bucks for 6 tasters and a bunch of knowledge. 10% off dinner if you decide to stick around and eat. Reserve yourself: 770-434-1114 or reservations@mussandturners.com.

  • Discovered deep in yesterday’s AJC, our intrepid state assembly appears to be sneaking through some sort of bill that would open up the world of direct wine sales considerably. How dare they!! Don’t they want to capitalize on all of the potential rah-rah-good vibes that would go along with a bill like this? The House’s bill page can be found here. I’ve read through the full text a couple times, but my powdered wig is at the cleaners and without it, my ability to decipher this crap is … uh … sub-maximal. There appears to be something about Georgia “farm” wineries being able to sell their goods more freely as well as citizens being able to buy directly from wineries more freely. It also appears to allow wineries to sell “distilled spirits, malted beverages, and wine” directly from their “tasting rooms.” So, wineries can open bars on their property.

    Naturally, I’m glad to see malted beverages even mentioned, but why no mention of retail / wholesale / distribution rights for breweries or distilleries? Is the general assembly simply willing to ignore the metric tons of tax revenue that would be generated through allowing Sweetwater, Atlanta Brewing, and Terrapin to engage in a little self-distribution of their own? I will never cease to be baffled at the legislature’s inherent need to draft legislation that differs wildly from one type of alcohol to another. If I can order wine from out-of-state wineries, can I also order beer, which usually has a lower %ABV?

    I know there are several lawyers who read this blather. One of you get in there and decipher HB393 for the rest of us.

  • Our friends over in Alabama appear to be slightly closer to taking a step out of the dark ages. This Tuesday, 3/4/08, their House of Representatives will vote on HB196, which will raise the alcohol limit in beer similar to Georgia’s own HB645 back in 2004, which I may or may not have written a few words about. I don’t have the full text of the Alabama bill. In a rather crude metaphor for Alabama’s place in society (from a technological standpoint, at least), in order to view the full text of their bills, you have to download some bloated Internet Explorer plugin (called ALISON) that requires Acrobat and is likely just a big ActiveX suckstorm. That’s heads up webmastering, Alabama. You know, they have the internet on computers now.

    So here’s hoping their state legislature takes a step in the right direction. I can’t help but wonder, though, whether the neoprohibitionists will seize this opportunity to continue to head in the same direction as Iran. I can’t emphasize enough how much life has improved since the passing of HB645 in Georgia. If I lived in Alabama, I would be pursuing this one ravenously.

    Heh. If I lived in Alabama.

    Good one.

  • Beery roundup

    I haven’t rambled semi-coherently about everyone’s favorite foamy adult beverage in a while, so …

    - Tickets for the 3rd Annual Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting have been on sale for a while now. “But Tony, it’s barely July and the tasting doesn’t happen until January!” Listen here, the first two instances of this event sold out faster than a Death Cab show at a Starbucks, so when November rolls around and you start getting your mouth all ready for some real ale, and OOPS! there aren’t any tickets left … well …

    - Now that the wild success of HB 645 has had two years to become part of the local culture, the craft brewing community is beginning to grumble about other regressive laws that prevent Georgia from cultivating the kind of vibrant brewing community of which it is truly capable. Recently, several local breweries were issued citations and fined by the Georgia Department of Revenue for listing names of specific bars, restaurants, and liquor stores that carry their products either on their websites or by other means. They were told this practice amounts to giving away free goods and services (advertising), which is illegal under the current three-tier distribution system, a system designed to protect the business interests of all three tiers (producer, distributor, retailer), but which really only protects the middle tier. No more emails that say, “Free Pint Glass night at bar X on X/X/XX,” or, “Come to restaurant X for a 5-course meal where the chef has paired each course with a beer from us.” If a customer calls a brewery and asks where that brewery’s products can be purchased (because you can’t purchase it directly from the brewery, you stinking lush) the employee of the brewery is prohibited from telling the customer the specific name of an establishment. They have to say something like, “our products should be available at most retailers in, uh, downtown Georgia.”

    I’m not sure which breweries if any have decided to fight, but recent legal precedent appears to be on their side. A member of a local beer listserv posted a link to an April 26, 2005 Georgia Supreme court decision in FOLSOM et al. v. CITY OF JASPER et al. 279 Ga. 260. The Rodeo Cafe was cited for purchasing two newspaper ads, one containing the volatile word ‘champagne,’ and one containing the ghastly offensive phrase ‘Miller Lite.’ One of the many money shots from the 12-page decision:

    The City argues that restricting the availability of information regarding alcohol sales will reduce the prevalence of both underage drinking as well as fortuitous drinking by adults. But the City cites absolutely no evidence in support of its assertions, and reliance on “‘speculation [and] conjecture’ . . . is an unacceptable means of demonstrating that a restriction on commercial speech directly advances the State’s asserted interest.” Id. at 507 (citing Edenfield v. Fane, 507 U. S. 761, 770 14 (113 SC 1792, 123 LE2d 543) (1993))

    Taking the statewide legislative picture into account, I’m not sure mounting a defense based on free speech or commercial speech is the best strategy for small breweries vs. The Department of Revenue, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. In addition to decisions like the one above, Costco recently won a victory (21-page PDF) in their case against the Washington State Liquor Control Board, about which, I’ve written before. Washington has a similar medieval distribution system as Georgia. Costco essentially said, “Wait wait wait. We buy more wine than all of you distributors put together, yet we have to go through you distributor middle-men and pay your crap-ass markups rather than go directly to the producer. Bollocks. Poopycock. Bullpucky. we’ll see you in court.” And the Western District of Washington U.S. District Court basically said, “Not even the 21st amendment can protect your ‘Steele Act’ from our ‘Sherman Act’,” and a bunch of other stuff. Washington will be given the chance to appeal, presumably to a Circuit Court of Appeals (?), but this seems like one of those that has the mettle to make it all the way to John G Roberts and crew.

    What I’m trying to say is that things are afoot with liquor legislation, and it remains an exciting time to be a craft beer enthusiast.

    Beer Review

    All that talk of alcohol legislation yesterday got my tounge all horny for some fruits of the gwcb’s labor. Luckily, I was prepared. Sometimes when I’m at the liquor store, I’ll see something on the shelf and say, “You and I both know I’m going to drink the shit out of you eventually, so git’cher ass in the basket, toot sweet.” Last night I helped Brian change one of the headlights in his Mazda, and then following a lovely little dinner in the Whole Foods eatery, I returned home to quaff the sweet nectars of hops and barley and hops and hops, which I had procured a few days ago.

    Today we will be discussing the Hercules Double IPA from the Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver, Calalala. I noticed a display of various 22oz Great Divide varieties at my local retailer last week, but since I had never heard of the brewery, I gave it little consideration.

    Since HB645 passed last summer, there has been an obvious influx of new beers. 90% of them, however, come from Belgium and taste nothing like the wicked west coast IPAs that I have come to love so dearly. Occasionally, we’ll gain new distribution of a domestic brewery, but they’re usually from the East Coast and unless they start with Dogfish Head or Victory, I haven’t been all that impressed. (I’m looking in your general direction, Brooklyn Brewery.) Where is Laguinitas? Where is Anderson Valley? Where is Bear Republic? Where is Stone? Where the hell is stupid Fat Tire Amber already!! Fat Tire flows like Diet Coke everywhere else. Grocery stores in Atlanta would not be able to keep Fat Tire on the shelves, I guarantee. Possibly the worst offense is that there ain’t even no Bridgeport in these parts. Why is that the worst offense? Because Bridgeport is owned by THE SAME COMPANY THAT OWNS PETE’S WICKED, SHINER, AND IMPORTS MOOSEHEAD AND MODELO! (Modelo, for those of you who don’t know makes a little-known Mexican lager called FUCKING CORONA.) “Dear Gambrinus, how much Moosehead do you really sell in Georgia? You’re not fooling anyone.”

    What was I talking about?

    Continue reading

    Free Beer!

    Georgia’s passage of HB645 legalizing higher gravity beer was, in my opinion, a huge cultural success for the state considering what a strangle hold the Baptists have traditionally maintained on pseudo-community standards issues like this. I applauded it then and I applaud it now.

    But the fight to bring the local laws out of the 19th Century is far from over. Dogwood Brewing could have been allowed to brew beer that was 50% alcohol and it probably wouldn’t have kept them afloat. The next slap-fight in the lunchroom of alcohol regulation will hopefully be over the monstrosity known as the three-tier distribution system. No retail sales of alcohol on Sundays is also a shard in my eye, but the distribution system is a much bigger problem. It’s going to be a long, messy battle, but initial signs are pointing toward eventual success.

    In February of this year, Washington-based Costco Wholesale Corp. filed suit against Washington’s restrictive distribution laws. Costco argues that the laws prevent free-trade. If I soent $620 million a year on wine, I would probably complain about things like mandatory 10% markups. Last week, a federal district court ruled that Costco can challenge the State of Washington in court. The trial is not set to start for another year, but at least things are moving in the right direction.

    More importantly, because they will ultimately affect you dweebs out on the west coast too, are today’s arguments in front of the SCOTUS. Jen or Bill, correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears the justices will be charged with ruling whether the 21st Amendment, which gives states the power to regulate liquor however they want, is in conflict with the Commerce Clause in Article I, which gives the federal government the authority to regulate interstate commerce. The core of their argument is that allowing in-state manufacturers to sell directly to consumers while forcing out-of-state manufacturers to go through wholesalers is “discriminatory” and “protectionist.” Their examples are Michigan and New York. Methinks it will be relatively easy for the SCOTUS to say, “Alcohol is special, like Tobacco, Firearms, and Porn, and local governments can regulate it however they damn well please,” but, like I stated earlier, the important part is that cases like these are passing muster and making it all the way to the Supreme Court.

    UPDATE: The mainstream press has taken notice of today’s Supreme Court arguments.

    The Powers that be

    If you have read this blog ever, then you are familiar with my affinity for craft beer and what a wonderful boon HB645 has been for the local craft brew community. (For those of you who were born after July 1st, HB645 raised the maximum amount of alcohol allowed in beer in Georgia from a Utah-tastic 6% ABV to the much more reasonable 14% ABV.) I forget the reasoning behind setting the limit at 14%, and the number of beers in production that are in the 14% range are few and far between. The real score for beer drinkers is access to the hundreds of beers that fall between 6% and 9%. I would list several of them, but that would be boring.

    As HB645 wound its way through committees, rewrites, readings, and votes, all signs pointed to success for the leaders of the push, Mark Nelson and Ted Hull. The bill was successfully marketed as a boost for small businesses and Georgia’s Tourism / Hospitality industries. Arguments against the bill (“Think how much faster our high schoolers will be able to get drunk!!) were quickly and easily refuted (“A 12oz. bottle of 9% ABV beer costs $7.00). Despite the seemingly imminent success, everyone involved knew that it couldn’t possibly be so easy to pass an alcohol bill here in the glorious land where most people still actually believe that a bearded, sandal-wearing, conservative messiah is going to return from the dead and smite those who wear condoms. No one gloated. Everyone braced for some sort of backlash or fallout.

    And just like clockwork, Fred Powers came along and filed a steaming mountain of fear-mongering, and misinformation cleverly disguised as a news report called “Trouble Brewing” for the local CBS affiliate. In his “report,” Powers conjured all the impartiality of Geraldo Rivera as he tried to crack the whip of implied community standards. Taking cues from all the 2-term, Republican presidents from the 21st century, Powers dumbed his thesis down to the point where the only place it makes any sense is in the complete and total absence of pesky context. I will distill: Alcohol makes you drunk. Beer contains alcohol. People drink beer. If beer contains more alcohol, people will get more drunk. I’m sure the Peabody awards would be trying to call Powers, but they’re all too busy being passed out from the sheer magnitude of his discovery. Oh, and the really strong beer.

    Powers’ report culminated with an experiment comparing the effects of Budweiser (weighing in at 4.5% ABV) and Hurlimann Samichlaus (a monster 14% ABV). One of his producers drank three Budweisers and Powers downed three of the world’s most famous Christmas beer. The results were shocking. After drinking what equals three small bottles of wine … Powers was drunk! You could see it in the shine on his face as he tried to finish his report, and he had police on hand to issue breathalyzer tests to prove it. Anyone who has ever had beer that strong will attest that drinking three of them is foolish. (Side note for Mike and Chaz: B2K was only 12.5% and we never drank three of them.) What surprised me was that the cops didn’t arrest his ass for owning and consuming beer that, at that point, was still illegal in Georgia. The motivation seemed to be that Powers didn’t see enough public outcry against a bill which was counter to Georgia’s proud tradition of arbitrary morality and biblically sound legislation, so he thought he’d jumpstart the community mob and let them know that they should be outraged while thinly veiling the whole thing as “journalism.” I think the saddest part is that he was merely following the tenets of investigative local reporting. I mean, “Trouble Brewing”? Come on.

    The only reason I even bother to re-hash this ridiculous episode is that it seems Powers is being heralded for being the Johnny Knoxville of local news reporting. My favorite part of the article is when Michael Castengera, a University of Georgia broadcast news lecturer who consults 20 news stations nationwide (none in Atlanta), says, “Let’s not pretend this is journalism …” It’s fine to come clean with that assertion for the purpose of the article, but what about the masses lapping up the local news report who take Powers’ reports for gospel truth? Or even mostly true? Ah, the stupid getting more stupider. Thanks, CBS!

    Let's talk about the weather. I hate that bitch.

    Today is the last day of summer. Not literally, obviously, as any nincompoop (that’s the first time I have ever typed that word – write that down) who slept through elementary science knows fall officially starts on the 21st of September, or whatever. Mentally, however, today is it. Today, the temperature will push the 90 mark and it’s so humid you can see it. Alas, I am resigned to sigh and mumble to myself, “August weather in Georgia is a dick.” But come tomorrow at lunch time, when I step outside and it feels like the surly steam room at my off-smelling local YMCA, my reaction will be slightly different. “OH, HAIL NO! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?!? JESUS CHRIST, IS IT NOT SEPTEMBER OUT HERE!! WHAT’S WITH THIS WEATHER?! WHERE’S MY SENATOR’S PHONE NUMBER!? WHO IS MY SENATOR?!”*

    Yes, ladies and jerks, from the red curry lentil soup with grilled cheese for dinner last night, to waking up in a cold sweat screaming, “YOU’RE PUNTING!? YOU’RE DOWN BY 28 POINTS!! WHO IS MY SENATOR,” thoughts have definitely turned to all things fall. College Football. Firewood. Pro Football. Beer. High School Football. Republicans stealing elections like stray dogs who should be shot in the street. Uh … women’s football. Oh, and I almost forgot – CHILI.

    That’s right. It’s time to start planning the 2004 Chili Freakout. I am comandeering it at my house this year so I can get the drunkest and piss in the yard without feeling guilty. There are a couple local celebrities I’d like to invite, and I’m also going to see if the AJC will cover it. I am thinking October 30th or November 6th.

    The Geester and I are already working on our recipe, so y’all mo’scratchers better get serious. I’d hate to have another one-sided ass-whooping like last year. Marty, I will make sure you know EXACTLY what time things start this year.

    You all have two months. Get to work.

    *State – Ginger Collins, the right-wing, HB645 nay-voting BITCH, who happens to live in the next neighborhood over.
    Federal – Zell Miller, the biggest traitor to forward human progress since monkeys discovered humping, and Saxby Chambliss, who will not be given any further consideration on this website because his actual name is Saxby Chambliss. Freak.

    Beer.Satan.Beer

    Before I forget, I must relay the Geester’s review of In Flames based on the first song on the Reroute to Remain album. This was unsolicited and appears in it’s unedited entirety. By unedited entirety I mean this is what I remember her saying in the car last night:

    “The problem is the singing. If it weren’t for the singing, this would sound like The Get Up Kids. Take out the satan and it would be just fine.”

    At which point I almost drove off I-75 into the Chattahoochee River.

    We were en route to the Brickstore in Decatur last night to drink whiskey beer and play Scrabble. I was finally able to convince Gia to try the WB, and she agreed that it is extremely tasty. I had two glasses and rather than have a second glass of WB, Gia opted for a Glenmorangie 12 year port finish neat with rocks on the side. Scotch like that is usually $10+ but Brickstore had it for $8 so she couldn’t pass it up. My wife is fucking cool. We also tried a new version of Scrabble where you only have 20 seconds to put a word on the board. If you can’t, then you lose your turn. As if I didn’t feel dumb enough before, this game frosted the proverbial urinal cake. You’ve got 20 seconds and a rack with 7 letters, and you can’t even find a 2-letter word. Back to the sandbox, junior!

    My mental fallout from watching the beheading video has pretty much subsided. Gia gave me a verbal dope slap when I mentioned to her that I watched the video. Apparently the fact that I’m a big wet blanket is not such a secret. Diggity-damnit.

    Tonight, Andy and I are heading to Dogwood to stand in the parking lot and drink of the free beer. Speaking of beer. I just heard that Sintax Perdue put ink to paper amd signed the 14% beer bill (HB645) into law. I will probably be a little cloudy on July 2nd. But it’s a friday, so I might have to call into work “sensational.”

    Holy shit.

    HOLY SHIT!

    I just got an email that says HB645 passed the Senate 37-7 and Sin-tax Perdue says he’ll sign it.

    I feel faint.

    *thud*

    from the AP:
    With backers calling it a way to promote tourism, the Georgia Senate gave final legislative approval Thursday to legislation that would allow stronger beer to be sold in Georgia.

    The measure cleared the chamber 37-7 with no debate and goes now to Gov. Sonny Perdue. It passed the House last year.

    If Perdue gives his approval, state law will be changed to allow the sale of beer with alcohol content up to 14 percent, more than twice the current six percent limit.

    “This will assist tourism and industry,” said Sen. Michael Meyer Von Bremen, D-Albany, who presented the bill. “It brings us in line with Tennessee and Florida.”

    The issue has been debated for several years, pushed by advocates who complain Georgia’s current alcohol limits prevent the importation and sale of high-potency brews available elsewhere.

    Wha-what happened? I dreamt that I would soon be able to buy good beer where I live. Holy shit.

    legislation

    Okay, I’ve gathered myself. Apparently, It is not very likely that Perdue will sign HB645, because he probably doesn’t want to be known as a governor who signed a “more alcohol in the beer” law. But if he vetos it, he will come across as an enemy of small business and the economy. If he lets it sit for 6 days, it will automatically become law, which is what everyone is hoping for. So I will keep my excitement in check until I have a Maximus in one hand and a Hop Rod in the other.

    Gia and I rule the dinner hour. Last night I grilled cheese-filled turkey burgers. While I had the coals hot, I went ahead and cooked off two porkloins so that we could have 2 or 3 subsequent meals taken care of.

    Tomorrow night’s dinner hour will also be ruled like a drunk proletariat. Cajun potluck. Low Country Boil. Etouffe. Spicy everything. I’m stoked. My toilet is stoked. You should be stoked for me and my toilet.

    I almost forgot …

    … if you live in Georgia, then you care about this. If you don’t care, then forget you know me. You are dead to me.

    Basically, HB645, which will raise the alcohol limit in malt beverages from 6% by volume to 14% by volume, has passed favorably through the Senate committee to which it was referred and returns to the Senate floor for a vote. It passed the House last April by a huge margin. If the Senate approves it, only Sonny Perdue stands in the way.

    Do you like beer?

    If you claim to, then you care about this.