Fellow snobs – if you’ve been paying attention to Facebook, the Twitterverse, Rate Beer, or a number of other places, you’re probably aware of what SB1224 is for ole TN. I did not think I’d start off American Craft Beer week by contacting my governor and state senator. What started out as a simple change to ease the restrictions on basically opening a liquor store was amended to include some verbiage about allowing high gravity beer production in the land of orange. Your first reaction was probably the same as mine – AWESOME – however, the words “pilot” and “3 breweries” put a damper on such celebrations as I tilted my head in confusion. Turns out that a high profile brewery – Sierra Nevada – is scoping out the eastern part of the state – Alcoa, for a potential brewery but for that to work for Sierra Nevada they needed to be able to – legally – produce a pretty decent amount of their beer that just happens to be over our 5% ABW – fair enough. I’m not sure how, when, or why but the amendment in SB1224 was intended to address this need and since our good friends at Yazoo already had their distiller’s license, they were included. Not exactly sure how City Brewing which just bought a facility in Memphis got included but they are a pretty big brewer.
Here’s the bottom line: high gravity beer production in Tennessee is a good thing. Yazoo, City Brewing, Sierra Nevada are all stand up breweries and of the three, well, I’ve had one of the three’s high gravs – several actually and they are great. Producing this beer means more tax revenue, more jobs and makes us more attractive to other perspective breweries. What isn’t a good thing is to restrict the rest of the brewers especially those who have already committed to Tennessee – keep the field level for all. It’s already hard enough to get going in Tennessee, let’s not make it any harder. Speculation is that these restrictive provisions were put in place to appease the far right and get Sierra Nevada the foothold they need to get into the region however, I’m also hearing speculations that have nothing to do with the far right….so why this provision is in there is yet to be determined.
I’m really starting to believe there are some stereotypes attached to “beer” that aren’t quite fair. I get that the whole “craft beer” concept is still new to some in the Volunteer state. Craft Beer, in a lot of ways, is very similar to fine wines or, one of my favorites, bourbon. It’s an art – and a beautiful one at that. Restricting the ABV is like limiting a painter to specific colors or canvas size whereas the most beautiful paintings are those where artistic creativity is granted and the limits are only set by the creator.
Craft beer drinkers have spoken today through comments, calls, e-mails to state senators and Governor Haslam – great job gang. From what we’re hearing, the amendment is possibly being changed and the end result could be a very good thing for all – so keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned….tomorrow may prove to be a very interesting day as this bill is put before another Senate committee.
If you haven’t read Sierra Nevada’s statement on the matter, be sure you check it out here.
A few sources: