By now you may have heard about the latest effort to evolve the Montana brewery laws. There is a movement underway to change the state's definition of beer, House Bill 400 (click here to read it).
According to Montana Code 16-1-106, (5) "'Beer' means a malt beverage containing not more than 7% of alcohol by weight." The bill is attempting to redefine beer as a malt beverage containing not more than 14% alcohol by volume, this translates to 11.05% alcohol by weight. Now to fully understand this, understand that there are two scales to measure alcohol in beer: alcohol by weight and alcohol by volume. The state limit of 7% alcohol by weight translates to 8.869% alcohol by volume. Potatoes, Potahtoes. Same amount of alcohol in both readings.
There are very few states in our fine country that have such restrictive language on their books regarding how much alcohol can be present in beer. Unfortunately, Montana is one of those states. There is a true desire from the purchasing public to have the legal opportunity to sample and purchase Montana-Made beers that, by their vary style designation, contain alcohol greater than 7% by weight. Brewer's across the state, also, have a deep desire to produce these rarefied brews. But make no mistake, these high-gravity beer styles are not about "getting drunker, quicker". There are plenty of products on the market already to fill that post-adolescent niche. These style are to be savored, enjoyed slowly. Most require they achieve room temperature to release all of their aromatic qualities.
This "7%" law was put on the books several decades ago and seven percent is said to have been a fairly arbitrary limit. There does not seem to be much resistance to this alteration from any one group. That, in and of itself, is a rarity whenever you talk about changing any alcohol law or rule in Montana. The brewer's are for it, MADD (Mother's Against Drunk Driving) states they have no problem with the bill ("As long as the packaging notes that the person is getting in effect, two standard drinks". Missoulian, Sunday Feb 1, 2009). Even the Montana Tavern Association seems to not oppose it, but they don't support it either.
Gold-Medal winning If, in fact, this does go through and becomes law, it will give me a chance to brew some of these recipes I have in my recipe book that I haven't done in quite awhile. Including my GABF,Maibock! Oh Baby! Or maybe a doppelbock or Eisenbock or even a Barley Wine!! These types of beer would be a very special brew, one we wouldn't be producing very often, or in very large quantities primarily because of the costs involved. But it would be refreshing to have the opportunity to produce them and be able to compete on a level playing field against the out-of-state breweries that can make these beers.
As always with these types of things, CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE AND ASK THEM TO SUPPORT HB400!
Let's evolve our brewery laws.
Until next time,
Your Humble Brewer