View Full Version : Festival Supports Free The Hops sponsored bill

03-12-2010, 06:59 PM
SUDS OF THE SOUTH BEERFEST (http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20100312/NEWS/100319918/1005?Title=Beerfest-celebrates-regional-breweries-benefits-Free-the-Hops)
What: Event highlighting regional breweries,
with live music by Ham Bagby and Blaine Duncan
When: 4-6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Little Willie's downtown
How much: $10 (designated drivers get in free)
More: www.wellthatscool.com, or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/99481

If a wine lover is an oenophile, what's the name for a connoisseur of beers? “Beer nerd,” said Bo Hicks, president of the Tuscaloosa chapter of Free The Hops. It seems like a classic class divide: Wine takes a proper size and shape of glass. Beer takes you to the ballpark. Wine is an Ivy Leaguer. Beer wins national championships in football. Wine requires an educated nose; beer just wants you to hop on in. In truth, there can be glasses and noses and complementing foods for beer lovers, too. But as Hicks' nomenclature indicates, beers just seem more friendly. But within the spectrum of brews, there are vast differences between your dad's mass-produced PBR and craft microbrews. If mainstream fare like Michelob or Bud compare to Fords and Hyundais, then a craft beer *— also known as specialty or gourmet beer — is more of a Mercedes or Rolls Royce. Saturday you can sip a few of the finer beers in life, and support regional brewers, too, at the Suds of the South Beerfest at Little Willie's, sponsored by Free The Hops and wellthatscool.com. Included will be craft beers from Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. of Kiln, Miss.; Terrapin Beer Co. of Athens, Ga.; Sweetwater Brewery of Atlanta; Highland Brewing Co. of Asheville, N.C.; Good People Brewing Co. and Back Forty Beer Co. of Birmingham; Abita from Abita Springs, La.; and Yazoo Brewing Co. of Nashville, Tenn. It's a benefit for Free The Hops, which formed to help adapt or overwrite outdated Alabama alcohol laws. The organization won a big one last year when its Gourmet Beer Bill, introduced in 2006, passed the Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Bob Riley. It allowed alcohol by volume in beer to be increased from 6 to 13.9 percent, leading hundreds of gourmet beers to bars, restaurants and retailers in the state. Free The Hops' new focus is on reforming antiquated brewpub laws. “Right now folks like Good People and Olde Towne, who brew beers to sell off premise, they can't have a tap room in their breweries and sell beers there,” Hicks said. Under Alabama law, beers must pass from a brewer to a distributor to a retailer, which adds plenty of room for middlemen and added costs. Not to mention that you can't tour the brewery and see how the product is made, as you can in most of the above-listed Southern brewers. “And the brewpubs in Montgomery and Mobile can't bottle and sell their product for off-premises,” Hicks said.
The reason there are only two currently operating brewpubs in the state has partly to do with the numerous other restrictions. Among them:

It must be located in an historic building

Must be located in a wet county that had a brewery prior to 1919.

Only the beer brewed in the brewpub can be sold, and not to wholesalers or stores.

Must have a restaurant that seats at least 80.

Must not brew more than 10,000 barrels of beer annually.

Free The Hops has sponsored a bill, currently in the Legislature, known as the Brewery Modernization Act. They see it as taking steps to bring Alabama laws into the 21st century and in line with our Southern neighbors, just as the Suds of the South beerfest is a micro version of larger regional festivals.

“We're trying to invigorate the Tuscaloosa Free The Hops community, and draw attention to our platform,” Hicks said. Free The Hops started in Birmingham, but also has chapters in Huntsville, Cullman, Montgomery and Mobile. For the local version, Hicks drew an idea from a Tuscaloosa News article on regional brewers.

“Why not focus attention on these great Southern breweries that often get overlooked at other events, especially in today's context where everybody's pushing slow food and locavores,” he said.

The brewers reacted enthusiastically, promising some tastes for the show that will be new to Tuscaloosa.

“They're fairly small, but at something like this, they're not going to get elbowed out by the Sierra Nevadas and the Sam Adamses,” Hicks said.

Some of the brands will be more familiar, such as Abita, which has been available locally for many years. Other brewers found it worth the marketing effort only since last year's bill passed.

Terrapin is bringing its Rye Pale Ale, India-style Brown, Sunray Wheat, Hopsecutioner and Rye Squared. Lazy Magnolia will feature Southern Pecan, Indian Summer and Reb Ale. Highland will bring its Gaelic Ale, Oatmeal Porter and St. Terese Pale Ale. Yazoo will showcase Pale Ale, Dos Perros and Hefeweizen. Sweetwater's selections will be the 420, Blue and IPA. Abita will have old favorites Amber, Turbo Dog and Purple Haze. The new Back Forty will offer its pungently named Naked Pig Pale Ale and Truck Stop Brown. Good People, considered by many beer nerds the up-and-coming brewery in the South, will have its Coffee Oatmeal Stout, Belgian Strong Dark, Snake Handler Doulbe IPA and a new Hitchhiker IPA.

Local musicians Blaine Duncan and Ham Bagby will play during the event, from 4-6 p.m. Saturday at Little Willie's. The $10 ticket — in short supply, and going fast — covers unlimited samples, a 3-ounce sample glass and a discount on Southern beers at the after-party. Designated drivers get in free, and taxis will be on standby.

The mission for Hicks, who's also a driving force behind wellthatscool.com, which sponsors events and runs a Web site and podcast, is to bring more cool stuff to Tuscaloosa and promote what's already here, to give the Druid City more of the flavor and festivity that other communities enjoy.

“This is coming from a guy who has the state bird tattooed on his body,” he said. “I'm trying to do my part, and embrace the South and try to make it better. We just need to highlight the good stuff and correct some of those negatives.”
More Here (http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20100312/NEWS/100319918/1005?Title=Beerfest-celebrates-regional-breweries-benefits-Free-the-Hops)