I’d like to expand on an issue touched upon in the June Newsletter. This forum is a little less “official” than the newsletter, so I feel at liberty to gossip a bit, rather than limiting myself to only the hardest facts.
Last night, as I was enjoying a rich, malty Fat Tire, my BlackBerry buzzed, notifying me of a new email. I pulled it out of the holster to see the following words typed by Mark Green of Vulcan Beverage: “call me asap. mark 328 6275.” Mark’s not in the habit of asking me to call him ASAP about trivial matters, so I figured it would be worthwhile to give him a ring. He answered the phone and I asked him what was up. He informed me that he had been by Alabama Crown that day and seen several new 500ml bottles of imports he’d never seen in this state before. Stuff like Monty Python’s Holy Grail Ale from Black Sheep Brewery in England. The guys at AlaCrown told him it’d be available “next month.”
Let that sink in, folks. There are currently bottles of English beer larger than 16 ounces sitting at a distributor in this state, ready to be sold. Now, I can’t promise you that we’re going to see it in Jefferson county. There are a few counties in this state that have local regulations allowing containers larger than 16 ounces. They are rural areas, and currently the only beers in large containers sold in those areas are malt liquors and macro light lagers. No specialty beers. I find it tremendously improbable that all of the sudden AlaCrown has decided out of the blue that it can sell English craft beer in rural Alabama. The logical assumption to draw from this information is that somehow the wholesalers know they will soon be able to sell beer in larger bottles in urban areas where previously they were unable to.
As far as I can tell, the 16 ounce limit is effectively history, at least for some areas. What is not clear to me at this moment is 1) How? And 2) Will this apply to the entire state, or will it be limited to certain counties? As I mentioned above, some counties already had local regulations that allowed larger containers to be sold there. It is conceivable that rather than going through the state legislature, something is happening to allow certain new counties to sell these larger containers. I still have no specifics on exactly how this has happened. I’ll certainly keep you posted as I get more info.
Although the majority of great beers which are distributed in containers larger than 16 ounces also fall above the 6% limit (think Belgian Trappist Ales, Stone’s entire lineup, several from Avery, several from Great Divide, etc.), lifting the container limit will add some great beers to the shelves of stores in this state. The single most obvious brewery we’ll see much more of is Rogue. I did a quick scan of BeerAdvocate’s Rogue listings and came up with this list of beers in their lineup that are only sold in 22 ounce bottles but which clock in at 6% alcohol or less:
American Amber (though they say on their website they are offering 12 ounces bottles new in 2005… I haven’t seen any, have you?)Chocolate Stout
Honey Cream Ale (used to be here in 12 ounce bottles, but they are discontinuing that size)
Juniper Pale Ale/Yellow Snow Ale
Santa’s Private Reserve (mmm, one of my faves)
Furthermore, here’s a list of some that simply don’t have an ABV listed on BA. Don’t know if we’ll see these or not. Some may be special editions that don’t have national distribution anyway:
Cliff Hanger Ale
Hop Heaven Ale
Seahorse Pale Ale
St. Rogue Red.
This should also open up nearly everything from Young’s Brewery in England. Ever had their Double Chocolate Stout? You should. There are probably quite a few other European beers packaged in 500ml bottles like Young’s, and many of those might head our way, too (500ml equals roughly 17 American ounces.. D’oh! … and just to make things a little more confusing, 1 ounce in the U.S. is equal to 1.04 ounces in the UK). If you know of a 6% or less beer bottled in something larger than 16 American ounces, why not post a comment and let us know what you hope to see soon in Alabama.