Supporters of FTH,

The Hunstville Chapter of FTH is gaining membership and momentum, and they are about to host their most ambitious effort to date, a fundraiser at the Flying Monkey Arts Center. It’s happening Saturday, Jan 20th, 8pm to 11pm. There will be live music, light Hors d’oeuvres, and a lot of people coming together to support the liberation of beer in Alabama. It’ll be worth a drive even if you don’t live in Huntsville.

Of course the money raised will go to help pay for our lobbyist for 2007. Which brings me to the main subject of this newsletter: our forthcoming success during the 2007 legislative session.

The Gourmet Beer Bill: Round Two

Everyone subscribed to the Free The Hops email newsletter last spring knows that during the 2006 Legislative Session we succeeded in getting identical bills introduced in both the House and Senate that would have changed Alabama law to allow beer up to 14.9% alcohol. Neither bill passed. We knew the odds were against us going in, just as we now know the odds have tipped in our favor. We have great confidence that another attempt at passing The Gourmet Beer Bill will succeed in 2007.

Why we believe the Gourmet Beer Bill will pass in 2007

� 2006 was our first attempt
It’s not uncommon for a bill that carries with it any degree of controversy to require more than one attempt to pass. Since this is Alabama, any bill related to alcohol is guaranteed to have at least a little controversy. We accomplished quite a bit of education about our issue during the 2006 session, and we will be working hard in the months leading up to the 2007 session to make sure every legislator fully understands our issue. “Gourmet beer” isn’t a familiar concept for most Alabamians, so we have to work to change that.

� 2006 was an election year
On a related note, the 2006 session fell in an election year. Legislators in Alabama don’t want to touch an alcohol bill in an election year. But the 2007 session will fall as far from the next election as possible. Which makes it an ideal time to get an alcohol bill passed.

� Growth of the craft beer market and increased support from the Alabama Wholesale Beer Association
The market for alcoholic beverages in the U.S. continues to shift. The major domestic beer producers have continued to see consumers increasingly choose wine, spirits, and specialty beers instead of traditional American lagers. In late 2005 when the Alabama Wholesale Beer Association was setting its legislative agenda, the national shift had not yet affected most of the wholesalers. So they voted to be officially “neutral” regarding The Gourmet Beer Bill last year. They didn’t publicly do anything to oppose us, but neither did they make any efforts to help us. However, the national shift has made its way even to Alabama, and now the state’s beer wholesalers are prepared to embrace specialty beers and the profits those beers will bring them. The Alabama Wholesale Beer Association recently voted to officially support The Gourmet Beer Bill. That will be a critical part of our success in 2007.

� We now have a full time lobbyist in Montgomery
For the 2006 session we did not have the funds to hire a full time lobbyist. A lobbyist is often a vital part of getting legislation passed. In recent years 6% limits on alcohol content in beer were successfully lifted by grassroots organizations in both Georgia and North Carolina, and both organizations used lobbyists. We’ve been working hard at fundraising and will be hiring a lobbyist in 2007. He will be the cornerstone of our legislative effort and help ensure our success.

� Our membership and support continue to increase
Friends are helping friends discover the amazing flavor of craft beer and Free The Hops’ advocacy for good beer is adding to the ranks of those spending their beer money on quality rather than quantity.

2007 will be the year!