Give Me Beer or Give Me Death: The Politics of Beer in the US

Living in the DC area always provides ample opportunity for politics to invade the freedoms that you have come to appreciate. Whether it’s talking on your cell phone, carrying a firearm or smoking in a park, at some point your favorite vice is likely to come under scrutiny.  Since man began enjoying alcohol for pleasure, alcohol has always been a wonderfully imaginative target for legislators. Never ones to sit back and hope for a change, local brewer Flying Dog has been working overtime to take the bite out of some of the more onerous legislation.

Fighting the Good Fight in Michigan

First Amendment rights regularly come under fire and they’ve become a point of contention when it comes to beer labels. When a label is created, it goes through a rigorous approval process which includes a variety of Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau labeling requirements. And yes, sometimes the actual spirit of the label comes into question.

In September 2009, Flying Dog became the center of a First Amendment battle that may very well pave the way for other craft beer makers. Flying Dog applied for a license to sell “Raging Bitch,” its Belgian-Style IPA, in the state of Michigan. Shortly after submission, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission barred the sale of Raging Bitch, stating that the beer’s label was “detrimental to public health.”

On June 28, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission reversed its decision about banning the sale of Raging Bitch.

“The Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s reversal of opinion is a victory for craft beer,” Flying Dog CEO and General Partner Jim Caruso said. “Now, the great people of Michigan are no longer denied access to Raging Bitch, Flying Dog’s top-selling beer. But the fight for First Amendment rights in Michigan continues to rage on.” Caruso is continuing the battle in Michigan by moving on with their First Amendment lawsuit in order to recover damages from the loss of sales.

A Brewery Tour with No Brew?

Sometimes the laws that are on the books just don’t jive with the reality of beer drinking today. Brewery tours with beer samplings are a wonderful way for beer experts and novices alike to experience the art of beer: sight, sound, smell and taste. But an antiquated Maryland law made it difficult for Flying Dog to share the love of draft beer samples.

Brewery tours at Flying Dog were halted in December 2009, when the brewery placed a self-imposed moratorium on tours to concentrate on revising Maryland beer sampling laws. The original law stated that breweries could offer only one four-ounce sample of beer per person. With 18 beers on draft at any given time, this restriction made it difficult for patrons to experience Flying Dog’s variety of beer styles and favors.

After petitioning state legislators, the brewery’s effort was rewarded when the laws were unanimously updated and signed into law on July first.

The changes enable patrons to sample a wider selection of beers as well as purchase up to the equivalent of four six-packs to be consumed off-premise.

Even PoliticiansLove Beer

Following in the footsteps of the House Small Brewer’s Caucus formed in 2007, the Senate Small Brewers Caucus was established in June of this year. Led by Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the caucus provides a forum for members to discuss issues important to small brewers while exploring what lawmakers can do to strengthen the growth and role of these small businesses in local economies across the country. The caucus also provides opportunities for Senators to learn about the skill and art of brewing beer and to better understand the cultural and economic contributions that small brewers make to their communities.

As a result, legislators have introduced bills in both the House and the Senate to reduce the excise tax for small brewers. The bills reduce the rate on the first 60,000 barrels by 50% (from $7.00-$3.50/barrel) and establish a new rate of $16.00 per barrel on beer production above 60,000 barrels up to 2 million barrels. Breweries with an annual production of 6 million barrels or less would qualify for these tax rates.

These types of economic changes in the industry will enable brewers to save for long term investments and create much needed jobs for their surrounding communities.

Currently, the US is making some of the best craft beer in the world. Having the support of our legislators makes creating and drinking beer a much more meaningful experience for everyone.

While there will always be seemingly unfair (and sometimes even odd) laws regarding beer – its production, sale and consumption – there are aficionados out there trying to make the world a safer place for beer lovers everywhere.

Flying Dog Brewery Tours

Tours are offered every Thursday and Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., along with two sessions on Saturday (Noon – 2 p.m. and 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.). Each session includes a history of Flying Dog, a tour of the brewing facility — including the brew house, cellar, quality assurance lab, and packaging areas — and samplings of some of the 18 draft beers available.

Tour participants can also pay $5 at the beginning of their tour to keep the commemorative tasting glass.

Reservations can be made by calling Flying Dog Brewery at 301-694-7899 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

BEER EVENTS

The big news on the local beer front this month is the annual DC Beer Week from August 14-21.  Get all the info on events at www.dcbeer.com.

Thurs., August 4
International IPA Day

Thirsty for IPA? Mad Fox enjoys the spirit of International IPA Day by rolling out three IPAs for a tapping and tasting event – Broad Street IPA, Orange Whip IPA and India Ink Black IPA.
Mad Fox Brewing Company: 444 W Broad St., Falls Church VA; 703-942-6840; madfoxbrewing.com

Fri., August 5
Italian Craft Beer Tasting

Visit Green Dragon Pub at the Bilbo Baggins Global Restaurant for nine spectacular brews and tapas. Drafts include Birreria Le Baladin and Birra Del Borgo. Five bottle beers will also be served. Featuring Ron Fischer of B. United International. The tasting starts at 7 p.m. and is $50/person.
Bilbo Baggins Global Restaurant: 208 Queen St., Alexandria, VA; 703-683-0300; www.bilbobaggins.net

Wed., August 10
Farm to Bottle: A Loose Cannon Vertical Tasting

Experience this hop-heavy regional staple like never before. Several versions of Heavy Seas’ Loose Cannon IPA will be presented by the folks who know it best: the hop farmer, the brewer, and the cellar man. The tasting starts at 7 p.m. Check the site for details.
Sixth & I: 600 I St. NW, DC; 202-266-3233; www.sixthandi.org

Sat., August 13
Beer Tasting with Yards Brewing

Come to Arrowine and Cheese for some delicious gourmet foods, wines, and beers. On August 13, they’ll be hosting a beer tasting with Yards Brewing Company right there in the store!
Arrowine: 4508 Lee Hwy., Arlington, VA; 703-525-0990; www.arrowine.com

Sun., August 14
Lagunitas BBQ at Lyon Hall

Lyon Hall is teaming up with Lagunitas representative Logan Spielberg to put on “Lagunitas and Lotsa BBQ.” Lyon Hall will have a mobile keg unit with three tap lines. Beer director David McGregor and chef Andy Bennett will both be on-hand as well to share in the festivities.
Lyon Hall: 1020 N Highland St., Arlington, VA; 703-741-7636; www.lyonhallarlington.com

Beer and Cheese Pairing at Meridian Pint

The Pint’s very own Tim Prendergast hosts a casual evening of beer and cheese. Five courses of unique pairings will show you why beer is the ultimate match for cheese! Throughout the course of the evening we will taste cheeses that cover a wide variety of flavors from fruity, tangy, and funky, to nutty, herbal and sweet. Come to think of it, that describes the range of beers we will be drinking as well! This event costs $25.
Meridian Pint: 3400 11th St. NW, DC; 202-588-1075; meridianpint.com

Mon., August 15
Beer 101 with Flying Dog Brewery

Whether you’re a beer novice or just wanting a little refresher course on your favorite fermented beverage, we’ve got an awesome event for you to kick off DCBW. Join Flying Dog Brewery at Bread & Brew as they taste their way through a variety of Flying Dog brews and get schooled in all things beer. Then go forth, Oh Educated One, and enjoy the rest of DCBW just a little bit wiser! Starts at 7:30 p.m.
Bread and Brew: 1247 20th St. NW, DC; 202-466-2676; www.breadandbrew.com.

Tues., August 16
Heavy Seas Wood Cask Night

For the second straight year, ChurchKey will feature a rare wooden cask filled with Heavy Seas Craft Brew! There is no admission fee for this event and all beers will be served and priced individually.
ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; 202-567-2576; www.churchkeydc.com

Homebrewer Matchup at Meridian Pint
The long story short is that homebrewers can drop off two bottles at Meridian Pint from July 25-August 7. Entrants must specify what they were aiming to produce, either a specific style or a specific deviation, for the judges’ consideration. This competition will be judged by the public on a “best of show” basis.
Meridian Pint: 3400 11th St. NW, DC; 202-588-1075; meridianpint.com

Wed., August 17
A Great, Great Lakes Night

Join Luke Purcell, Great Lakes Brewing Company’s head brewer, for a night of conversation and  numerous Great Lakes drafts, including the seasonal release of Oktoberfest and a few of Great Lakes’ “Brewpub” beers. If you like trivia, Luke will also host a round of our famous trivia.
Meridian Pint: 3400 11th St. NW, DC; 202-588-1075; meridianpint.com

August 17-20
Smith Commons DC Beer Week events

As fans of great brews, the Smith Commons team continues to do all it can to support the burgeoning local beer community. For this year’s edition of D.C. Beer Week, they’ll divide the country into four regions and feature breweries from a different region each night — Midwest, Northeast, West Coast, and Mid-Atlantic, in that order — with $5 pints, $15 bombers, and $5 regionally themed small-food pairings. This is a celebration of American beer you won’t want to miss.
Smith Commons: 1245 H St. NE, DC; 202-396-0038; www.smithcommonsdc.com

Thurs., August 18
Doggy Yappy Hour with Canine Rescue

Every Thursday is Doggy Yappy Hour on the patio at Bread & Brew however for DCBW they’ve got an additional something special going on. Bring your dog and get $1-off bottles of Flying Dog, Dogfish Head, and Lagunitas. In addition, the wonderful people from Canine Rescue will be there with some pups looking for forever homes.
Bread and Brew: 1247 20th St. NW, DC; 202-466-2676; www.breadandbrew.com.

Sat., August 20
DC Homebrewers Association Homebrew Competition

$10 gets you entry into this homebrew competition on H Street. There will be a DJ and the opportunity to taste beers from homebrewers all across the city.
The Red Palace: 1212 H St. NE, DC; 202-399-3201; redpalacedc.com

Wed., August 24
Vegetarian-themed Beer Dinner

Join us for Mad Fox for their first vegetarian beer dinner. Bill and Charlie will have a slew of special beers to pair with the courses. The cost is $50 plus tax and gratuity. Reserve now: seating is limited and this event will sell out. The dinner menu is available online.
Mad Fox Brewing Company: 444 W Broad St., Falls Church, VA; 703-942-6840; madfoxbrewing.com

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