Written by Ed Enoch for the Opelika-Auburn News and www2.wrbl.com
The brewing kettles tucked into the backroom of the Olde Auburn Ale House are long gone, and the brewery Chris Collier dreamed of building went north. Each in their own way were victims of financial realities that, until this year, made brewing beer in Alabama a difficult business.
“Two years ago, I would have never considered opening a brewery in Alabama,” said Collier, the brewer at the North-Carolina-based Nantahala Brewing Company. “Not because I didn’t want to, but because it wouldn’t have made any fiscal sense.”
Collier, who lives in Atlanta and commutes to North Carolina on the weekends to brew, said the beer-friendly laws and culture of North Carolina made the choice of where to locate his brewery easy. But during its last session, the Alabama Legislature changed state laws, giving brewpubs and breweries more freedom to bring their beer to a wider Alabama audience.
The recent legislation was a compromise between advocates such as grassroots group Free the Hops and the distributors who currently sell beer across the state to retailers. The new regulations still tether brewpubs to historic buildings or historic districts in counties where brewing occurred before Prohibition, but it frees them of the requirement to also operate as 80-seat restaurants and to only sell their beer to customers on premise. The new law also allows brewpubs to sell their beer to wholesalers for retail sale off premise. The revised law allows breweries to operate taprooms, where beer lovers may sample brews as well as enjoy full pints.
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