We told you we weren’t going to stop with ABV.  While that was the original cause that inspired the formation of our organization, there are too many ridiculous beer laws on the books in this state that must be changed to bring us up to date with many other states where beer culture flourishes.

After collecting a tremendous amount of input on both the priorities of our supporters and on the political realities of 2010, and after extensive consideration and discussion, the FTH Board of Directors has decided our organization should pursue a combined agenda of Brewery and Brewpub reform next year.

This was a very difficult decision because a plurality (though not quite a majority) of you voted for “container limit” as your top priority among the remaining laws FTH intends to address.  And we all desperately want to get that limit raised as soon as possible because of the huge number of great beers that are only available in bottles larger than 16 oz.  Some breweries will continue to refuse to distribute in this state as long as that restriction remains on the books.

But the extensive research we did prior to making this decision led us to the conclusion that a bill addressing the container limit would have essentially no chance to pass in 2010.  The number one reason for that is it will be an election year.  Every single state legislator (except a couple who intend to retire) will be running for reelection next year.  And though we all know how baseless drunk-driving-related fears are when applied to the types of products FTH focuses on, no campaigning legislator is going to want to open himself up to possible criticisms of that nature.

In contrast, a bill addressing restrictions on breweries and brewpubs would not expand the availability, portability, or strength of beer in any way.  Its only effect would be to help Alabama small businesses — something that will be far easier for legislators to support in an election year.

A bill designed to make it easier to open and more profitable to operate a brewery or brewpub in Alabama is a noble endeavor that will make more locally brewed beers available to the residents of Alabama.  We have a chance to provide a huge boost to the Alabama brewing industry, which is entirely owned and operated by our friends and neighbors.  And once we succeed in these reforms, many more of your friends and neighbors will find the numbers add up for them to start a local brewery.  This bill could be a tremendous step towards advancing beer culture in our state.

This is a pretty complicated issue, so we don’t yet have all the specifics for you.  It will take some time to draft a bill and once complete, that bill will be far more complex than our ABV bill.

We can say that some of our objectives include legalizing tastings and some manner of sales by breweries directly to consumers, and we would like to see the hurdles to opening a brewpub significantly reduced as well as allowing brewpubs to participate in special events off-premises.  There are many ways these objectives could be met, and the exact approach that will prove most feasible will be determined through further discussions with businesses who will be affected by the changes: breweries, brewpubs, and beer wholesalers.

But don’t let the complexity of this issue fool you; the end result will be more and better beer available in Alabama.  And more importantly, it will be local beer.  The end result be a thriving, growing local brewing industry that Alabamians can be proud of.  We hope your support of our bill next year will be just as dedicated as it was when you helped us pass our ABV bill earlier this year.  We’ll need your emails, letters, and phone calls just as much in our next effort as we have in the past.

Thank you for your support.