Somewhat out of the blue, we’ve just had a rash of media coverage–even though things are pretty quiet for us with the next legislative session not starting until February. Apparently a story that was originally published in the Anniston Star got picked up by the Associated Press, which led to other stories in some media outlets around the state–mostly verbatim reprints of the original. The AP story can be read on the website of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. We even got some TV airtime on WAFF in Huntsville.

Like virtually every news story ever written or aired on Free The Hops, these have errors and misinformation. I’d like to address those here in the vain hope that perhaps they won’t be reiterated in future news coverage of our issue. Some of the errors are mistakes on the part of journalists; others are bits of misinformation stated by people interviewed by the journalists (and unfortunately printed/aired without critical analysis).

The first thing you may notice is that in the recent round of articles, journalistic standards weren’t high enough to get my name right. I’m variously referred to as “Danny Kiln” or “Danny Kline,” sometimes in the same article. I have never once gone by any name other than Danner Kline, and anyone who takes as little as 30 seconds to peruse a small fraction of this website will see it clearly spelled on nearly every page, usually more than once per page. I think when a journalist doesn’t make the effort to get someone’s name right, a huge red flag is raised.

The next error I’d like to point out is the AP author’s misunderstanding of the shroud award. The article states: “In June, proposed legislation to raise the alcohol level … in beer received the Shroud Award in the state House of Representatives, an annual honor bestowed upon a measure that got the worst legislative reception.” That is not an accurate statement about the Shroud Award. It makes no sense to claim that a bill which unanimously passed out of committee and for which a majority of Representatives voted “Yes” on the Budget Isolation Resolution received the “worst” reception of any bill in the House. The only reason our House bill didn’t pass was that the BIR requires a 2/3 supermajority, which we missed by a mere 3 votes. Other bills faired much worse. The Shroud Award is given purely in fun, and as I stated in the blog post below, the most logical conclusion to draw from this year’s award is that we have been successful in educating the legislature on our issue. The Shroud Award was a good sign for our cause.

Of course, this misunderstanding of an obscure legislative custom is understandable and it really pales in comparison to the text on WAFF’s site outlining their recent TV coverage of our issue. It starts with their title, “Some wish to raise alcohol content in beers brought and made in Alabama” and only goes downhill. We in Free The Hops do NOT want to raise the alcohol content in beer sold in Alabama; we want to raise the limit on alcohol content allowed in beer. This is a hugely critical subtlety that far too many people miss. The way the WAFF story words it, one gets the impression we are lobbying to change the alcohol content of existing beers. This is the old “14% Coors Light” canard. It cannot be said enough that none of the beers already familiar to Alabamians will change after our bill becomes law. The vast majority of beer sold here will still be under 6% ABV. We are only trying to raise the limit of what is allowed, which will bring in whole new styles of beer that the citizens of this state have never seen (except when traveling to the 47 other U.S. states with no 6% limit).

Considering the crucial misunderstanding by the WAFF reporter, it comes as no surprise that she was able to find a lot of people opposed to this phantom bill that would increase the alcohol content of beer in AL. WAFF published comments from no less than FOUR different people who oppose our legislation (as opposed to quoting only two who are supportive). All the comments from the naysayers were repetitive and made the story needlessly redundant… leading me to believe the reporter may have had an agenda. The big concern of those opposed to our efforts? That bringing higher alcohol beers into the state would contribute to drunk driving and underage drinking. Fears that FTH has clearly and irrefutably debunked with hard evidence. Once again I would like to direct everyone to our page addressing the concerns about underage drinking: The hard data clearly proves no link whatsoever between the availability of beer over 6% ABV and underage drinking. Of course the reporter didn’t bother mentioning that the fears expressed by our opposition are without merit.

I guess I can never stop repeating myself when it comes to explaing this issue. High alcohol gourmet beer has more in common with fine wine than it does with Bud Light and Miller Lite. It is very expensive and is an acquired taste. Underage drinkers are after a cheap buzz, and people who drink and drive are most likely getting drunk on hard liquor and/or $1 domestic drafts at some sports bar happy hour. The sort of person who appreciates gourmet beer is well educated, responsible, and certainly of legal drinking age. The best way to distill out the core issue at the center of our legislative efforts is that it’s a matter of free trade and consumer choice. The current law artificially limits competition to the big domestic beer brands and it stifles consumer choice. Wine is not subjected to such arbitrary limitations and there is no sound justification for subjecting beer to them.