Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Beer is good. It's an opinion based on serious research. A lot of beer laws are not good. They often restrict beer distribution, limits sales, and generally make it harder for us to access good beverages.
There have been some benefits of these restrictions. The main one, probably, is that it provided the storyline for Smokey and The Bandit:
Big Enos (Pat McCormick) wants to drink Coors at a truck show, but in 1977 it was illegal to sell Coors east of the Mississippi River without a permit. Truck driver Bo "Bandit" Darville (Burt Reynolds) agrees to pick up the beer in Texas and drive it to Georgia within 28 hours. When Bo picks up hitchhiker Carrie (Sally Field), he attracts the attention of Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason). Angry that Carrie will not marry his son, Justice embarks on a high-speed chase after Bandit.
(Note that IMDB's description -- "The Bandit is hired on to run a tractor trailer full of beer over county lines in hot pursuit by a pesky sheriff." -- seems to have confused the film with the Dukes of Hazzard. Crossing state, not county, lines was the issue and Rosco P. Coltrane was not part of the Bandit films. I digress.)
In my home state of West Virginia, getting craft beer, until 2009, was hard. Beer with more than 6% ABV could not be sold in the state. All beer in the state is "non-intoxicating beer" but the definition was raised from 6% so that it now includes (and allows) all malt-based beverages between 0.5% and 12% ABV.
The statute also provides:
(16) "Nonintoxicating craft beer" means any beverage obtained by the natural fermentation of barley, malt, hops or any other similar product or substitute and containing not less than one half of one percent by volume and not more than twelve percent alcohol by volume or nine and six-tenths percent alcohol by weight with no caffeine infusion or any additives masking or altering the alcohol effect.
Law is so great. You can define any term to mean anything. Put back a few of Chestnut Brew Works' Your Best Hoption (8.2% ABV) pints in a short period of time, and see how accurate that definition is. I digress again.
Beyond the basics of state beer and other alcohol laws, which are often the most outrageous examples of what I call predatory regulation (others more kindly call it "competitive legal strategy"), the old West Virginia law got me thinking about craft beers that would have met the old standard of "non-intoxicating beer" at under 6% ABV. My favorite of these beers are usually craft beers that are called "session beers," which also may have their origin in the law, but in this case, British Law. According to Beer Advocate:
The Drinking Session
A British expat and buddy of ours in California once suggested that a "session" referred to one of the two allowable drinking periods in England that were imposed on shell production workers during World War I. Typically the licensed sessions were 11am-3pm and 7pm-11pm, and apparently continued up until the Liquor Licensing Act 1988 was introduced. Workers would find a beer that they could adequately quaff within these restrictive 4-hour "sessions" that were laid down by the government without getting legless and return to work or not get arrested for being drunk and disorderly. Now he could be full of shite, but we've found some smatterings of info to back this up and it sounds like a fine origin of the term to us.
It's a good story, even if it is not confirmed to be accurate. American session beers are often considered beers with less than 5% ABV, which works for my purposes.
Some people have decided to hate on session beers (or at least the concept), but now that we have the internet I think it's fair to say most everything has been hated on in some form. I happen to like a number of the session beers, and good craft versions have the benefit of both having flavor and being relatively low calorie. All of the following recommendations are beers that are under 5% ABV and have the same or less calories than a Heineken (150 calories). Here's my five:
3. Lagunitas DayTime "Fractional IPA": ABV: 4.65%; IBU: 54.20; Calories: 140
4. New Belgium Brewery Slow Ride IPA: ABV: 4.5%; IBU: 40; Calories: 140
5. Flying Dog Easy IPA: ABV: 4.7%; IBU: 50; Calories: 141
I still love other higher alcohol brews -- I'm looking at you Bell's Two Hearted Ale (7% ABV) -- but that's for another discussion.
Enjoy wisely -- and safely. Despite what West Virginia law says, too many of any of these "nonintoxicating craft beers" will get you intoxicated.