HOORAY FOR…SOUTH CAROLINA?

Huzzah for those progressive legislators in…South Carolina? What?!

Last week, Mark Sanford took a break from hiking the Appalachian Trail to sign into law a bill that lifted South Carolina’s existing ban on on-site beer tastings and sales at breweries. You see, like my current home state of Alabama, South Carolina allowed tastings and sales at wineries, but not breweries. Why the discrepancy? I’m guessing it’s because wine is seen as the drink of choice for the white elite and beer is the drink “of the people” (aka: poor folks).

But with the rise of the craft brewing movement, beer’s reputation has changed. It’s no longer seen as just the drink of choice for rednecks, frat guys, and tailgaters. High-end, high-gravity beers are considered on par with good wine and liquor now. Fancy, pricey beer bars are sprouting up across the country and the former drink of the huddled masses (please note the sarcasm) has now been embraced by those at the top of the economic food chain.

The fact is that brewing is now a major growth industry which brings tax and tourism dollars to any state willing to pass brewery-friendly laws. While our country’s economy is still sputtering, the craft brewing industry has actually grown by 15% according to the article linked above! Only state legislators who are willfully blind or just plain stupid would ignore numbers like that. Why would you restrict an industry that brings jobs and money to your state with little to no negative impact?*

*I mean, breweries are already legal in every state. What difference does it make if they can have tastings and sell their product on-site? How could that possibly be a bad thing?

They may have been a little late to the party, but I give full credit to South Carolina for realizing the error of their ways and signing this new bill into law. Mark Sanford saw the hypocrisy in allowing wineries and distilleries to conduct tastings while breweries were treated as second-class booze-making citizens.

What’s fascinating to me is that Sanford spouted party-line Republican rhetoric in making this decision. In Alabama, conservatives tend to be the ones who block beer-related legislation because they see any law easing restrictions on alcohol as going against their “Christian virtues”. Keep in mind that this is the same religion that substitutes wine for the blood of their savior.*

*Editor’s Note: I am not mocking the traditions of Christianity. But I am definitely mocking politicians who legislate based on religious beliefs that should have no bearing on how industries are regulated by their respective States.

Sanford decided to ignore the religious aspects of his party’s platform and simply focus on the “less restrictions for businesses” aspect. I think this is a HUGE moment in the craft beer movement. Rather than holding back the brewing industry in the name of conservative “family values”, South Carolina is actually championing craft brewing because of conservative “economic values”. As a liberal, I couldn’t be happier. When the primary “enemy” to your “cause” decides that it’s their “cause” too…well then everybody wins!

Sanford stated that “Government has a duty to allow businesses as much freedom as possible…and indeed we’d like to see more of this kind of deregulation in the future.” Yes! Exactly! Thank you Mark Sanford, you philandering fruit-basket. If he “gets it”…perhaps the equally inane lawmakers in Alabama will see the writing on the wall.

As the article notes, Asheville, NC…just an hour’s hop from South Carolina, has become one of THE best beer town’s in the US. The brewing industry brings millions in tourism and tax dollars to Asheville. How could South Carolina sit back and watch its neighbor rake in the benefits of a deregulated beer industry without doing the same? They couldn’t…so they did the right thing and changed the laws.

Alabama is still clinging to its outdated regulations, of course. But maybe with South Carolina coming around, the Yellowhammer State will finally be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st (well, actually 20th) century.

What do you say, Alabama? Please?

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6 comments

  1. First, congrats to South Carolina. No more will you be considered a backward, racist, podunk state full of inbred hillbillies. For you have beer, and beer is good.

    Maybe soon you’ll catch up to my beloved, progressive home state of Massachusetts and provide all that beerdom has to offer. I’m sorry, what’s that you say? We can’t have happy hour in MA? What, I can’t order a pitcher for myself at a bar and I can only buy 2 beers at a time? Seriously, it’s illegal in MA to give out free drinks? What the shit is this!!!!! Christ, I figured once MA allowed the sale of alcohol on Sundays a few years back we were in the clear for everything else. Guess we still have a ways to go too…

  2. Don’t forget that MA is also the only state that UPS can’t ship booze to or from:

    http://www.ups.com/wine

    Remember when we used to have to drive to New Hampshire to purchase beer to drink while watching the Pats play on Sundays? And this was back in the day when the Patriots were so bad that drinking irresponsibly was the only way to make the games tolerable. Dark times.

    Still better than ‘Bama though. At least you can buy beer in containers bigger than 16 ounces.

  3. Shhhh…If we didn’t know about interstate commerce laws and the inability of MA to recognize viable economic dollars, we might be able to get off on a technicality. Can’t we just keep up the Simmons rhetoric of, “You know, if shipping beer were legal”?

    Wait, who is this? I don’t know you! Prank caller, prank caller…

  4. And yes, I do indeed remember driving up to Topsfield, MA and any town that lie within 10 miles of the NH border to buy beer on Sundays. Thank God they changed the laws just about the same time that the Pats started winning Superbowls. Nothing worse than checking your watch on Saturday night, realizing you just ran out of beer, and then accepting the awful truth that you had to figure a way to make it up North and back the next day in time for kickoff.

    Gotta love that it was illegal to buy any alcohol of any sort on Sundays, but as long as your business was within 10 miles of the Granite State you were all set. I wonder if they realized that 3/4 of the Northern border of Massachusetts shares a border with New Hampshire. I’m estimating that MA is only about 40 miles across at its narrowest section, so that’s a whole lot of beer sales that were taking place on Sundays due to a fun technicality. That said, most towns within 10 miles of NH suck anyway.

  5. Gramps · · Reply

    Great writing. Hollywood, or at least your 1st book is waiting on you.

    Loyal reader, Gramps.

  6. Sweeney · · Reply

    Herein lies why 40% of the tax income for NH comes from liquor. As a former NH resident, I salute you! Fortunately, WA has limited laws regarding beers (though it is quite restrictive of liquor still)…you can basically drink yourself silly on beer, so long as it is purchased between 6am and 2am.

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