A common question I am asked when I am out and about is “when will the ABV bill come up for a vote again?”.

The Alabama legislature is currently out of session, because the legislature in Alabama is a part-time body — they’re Constitutionally required to meet for no more than 30 “session days” a year. Those 30 days are usually spread out over a period of 4 months. The 2008 session ended on May 19. The next session doesn’t start until February 3, 2009.

Although that may be disappointing for some to hear, the truth is that the “break” between the annual sessions gives us time to prepare — raising money, spreading the word, and developing our lobbying strategy for the next session. It’s also a nice break from all the politics. I don’t know about you, but I prefer simply spreading beer culture in Alabama to participating in Montgomery politics. We’re primarily a political lobbying organization for craft beer enthusiasts, but having the legislature out of session gives us an opportunity to hold events and teach people about good beer.

Raising money and spreading the word usually go hand in hand. The annual Magic City Brewfest is currently our biggest fundraiser and our most public event. However, we also throw smaller events (some that raise money, many that don’t) throughout the year. These include beer tastings and beer dinners at local businesses, fundraising events, joint events with other organizations, and both public and member gatherings. These events, as well as chapter and statewide membership meetings, are usually posted on the FTH Calendar http://www.freethehops.org/calendar/.

Just a sample of events we are involved in — the Birmingham Chapter joined the Alys Stevens Center and Reg’s Coffee House to host a craft beer tasting at inter-ART-ive
In Huntsville, local FTH members got together to enjoy the Redstone Arsenal Oktoberfest http://www.redstonemwr.com/promo-events/oktoberfest.html, which supports that base’s MWR program. Other events and gatherings are normally held somewhere in Alabama every month. These kind of events often require volunteers, and I’d like to once again encourage you to contact your local chapter organizers if you’d like to help (or just attend) our local events. Chapters are located in Birmingham, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, and Mobile.

The ways we’re preparing for our lobbying efforts in 2009 are a little less glamorous. Since this is a public blog, I won’t go into all the details at this point, but we are working on literature and educational sessions with members of the legislature. We’ve also completed initial development of a web portal to educate our members and supporters about their state senator and representative, including their voting record on our legislation and their estimated level of support. We plan to release details of that web tool in a future newsletter.

So although we’re in a legislative break, there’s still plenty of opportunities to help out, have fun, and spread beer culture in your community. There’s a lot of work to be done before we need to start again with the Montgomery politics!

Free the Hops!

Stuart Carter, President
Free the Hops | Alabamians for Specialty Beer