Last week, the Alabama Brewers Guild submitted a public petition for rule modification with the Alabama ABC Board, asking them to remove a regulation that requires that retailers limit beer tastings to products that have not been available or widely distributed within Alabama for more than a year.

Although the rule has been on the books since 1999, the term “widely distributed” appears to have been broadly defined to exclude most, if not all, craft beer from the one year requirement. More recently, however, retailers have reported a shift in interpretation. It now appears that most, if not all, craft beers that have been in the market for more than a year are not eligible for retail beer tastings.

The Guild is pursuing this rule modification on behalf of the approximately 14,000 retail licensees in Alabama. Specifically, we ask the Board to delete the following sentence from the Alabama Administrative Code, section 20-X-7-.10:

(f) Beer tastings shall be limited to products which have not been available, or have not been widely distributed, within the State of Alabama for a period of more than one (1) year immediately preceding the date of the beer tasting

We believe this provision is vague with regard to the definition of “widely distributed,” which could lead to inconsistent application. It also puts a burden on the retail licensee to determine and understand whether a product has been widely distributed or available for more than a year.

Most importantly, the rule arbitrarily discriminates against beer. Wine and spirits tastings do not have this requirement. This may be due to an outdated concept of American beer. Beer, wine and spirits are all complex beverages, and there is no compelling reason to single out beer with this restriction.

The Guild discussed this issue with senior staff at the ABC prior to submitting the petition, and we feel confident that it will be fairly considered within the terms of the Alabama Administrative Procedures Act.