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Saturday, April 21, 2007

They called. They wrote. They are conquering.

South Carolina, just Wednesday, almost popped its cap.

At present in South Carolina, only beer of less than 6.25% alcohol by volume can be sold or produced in the state. (Of course, wine and liquor are legal at much higher levels, but such illogic is the purview of human affairs!)

But Wednesday, the legislature increased the limit - the cap - to 14% alcohol by weight. The bill awaits Governor Mark Sanford's signature.

[UPDATE: The governor signed it a few days later and it is now law.]

Read the bill. It doesn't allow beer at that level per se to be sold. Instead, it declares beers of 14% abw or less to be "nonalcoholic and nonintoxicating beverages" and thus legal to be sold!!!! (Talk about illogic and absurdity.) And read here about a similar event - but which occurred nationally in 1933.

By the way, the law stipulates a limit of 14 per cent alcohol by weight. Measuring alcohol by weight (14%) yields a higher number than if measuring by volume (17.5%), although, of course, either measures the identical amount of alcohol. This is a point that often causes confusion.

So, now, alone in the nation, only Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia stand against good - strong - beer.

Here's a short history of Pop the Cap, the group of good beer partisans that successfully fomented change in North Carolina, and recently rendered assistance to the same cause in South Carolina.

In February 2003, a motley group of thirty-five beer lovers gathered at the All About Beer office to discuss one issue: how to lift North Carolina’s 6% alcohol by volume cap on beer. For seventy years, North Carolina had imposed a 6% ABV restriction on beer sold and brewed within the state. Only four other states have such a severe restriction:

* West Virginia
* South Carolina
* Alabama
* Mississippi

The thirty-five of us were fed up. This relic of Prohibition made it illegal to brew or sell one-third of the world’s beer styles, including gourmet Belgian ales, hoppy IPAs, and intensely malty dopplebocks. Beers meant for sipping and savoring…nothing like the American light lagers that dominate North Carolina’s store shelves.

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