Saturday, April 07, 2007

Legal Beer

In the 11th century, King Canute ordered the tide to retreat. It did not.

In 1893, the Supreme Court ruled that a fruit was a vegetable.

And, on 7 April 1933 - 74 years ago today - Congress decreed beer to be non-intoxicating.

The 18th Amendment, which had been ratified on 16 January 1919, prohibited the manufacture and sale of "intoxicating liquors...for beverage purposes". The wording left it up to Congress to define "intoxicating". Congress did so later that year as any beverage containing greater than 0.5% alcohol by weight.

A long, dry fourteen years later on 7 April 1933, a Congressional bill, signed by newly-elected Democratic president FDR, went into effect: 3.2% alcoholic beverages were to now be considered as non-intoxicating!

In celebration, 1.6 million barrels of beer were consumed in a 24 hour period. If that had been just bottled beer - which it wasn't - the happy ruck would have consumed more than 529,000,000 bottles of beer in one day. Now, that's a party!

In 2007, the Brewers Association is celebrating Brew Year's Eve with numerous events across the nation.

However, it wasn't until December 5, 1933, that the 21st Amendment was ratified, completely repealing that ignoble experiment, the 18th Amendment. Beers stronger than 3.2% (and wines and spirits) were now allowed to be produced and sold. Reserved to the states was their right to do so or not.

One consequence of the wording of the 21st Amendment was the growth of the 'three-tier' system of alcohol distribution - the manufacturer of alcohol must be an entity distinct from the distributor which must be as well be distinct from the retailer. And the reservation to the states has given rise to a myriad of alcohol rregulations - some whimsical, some aggravating, some contradictory - differing state from state, locality from locality.

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