Just a couple of years ago "Something Rules" was the
slang expression for proclaiming something to be the
best of a class of things to be judged, as in "the
Yankees rule" (meaning no other baseball team was
better), or "Jeter rules" (meaning he was the best of the
Yankees). A beerfan might certainly use the expression
when comparing his favorite beverage to wine or distilled
spirits, but unfortunately "beer rules" can have a
completely different meaning, a meaning which puts
restrictions on where, when, and how we can partake of
that wonderful libation.
Governments, of course, as in every aspect of life, are
the biggest institutors of rules and regulations and beer
is no exception to their "nanny state" idea of governing.
More than 20% of the states have laws against beer
sales on Sundays and if suds are running low at a
Christmas celebration in Michigan, forget about
restocking, since that rust belt state outlaws beer sales
on December 25th, Sunday or not. I'm surprised the
American Atheists haven't been heard from on that one!
New England states help to protect us from ourselves
by not selling beer after 8:00 pm in Connecticut, nor
before 11:00 am on Sunday in Massachusetts. On a
recent trip to the Bay State for a parade, our band had
to restock the bus for the return trip and with plenty of
time before the parade, decided to pick up some beer
before the job so as to not waste time getting home.
Entering a supermarket at 10:45am, we found the beer
section covered with large tarpaulins and a crowd
waiting for the 11:00 o'clock unveiling. At eleven the
people watched eagerly as a clerk removed the tarps
with a flourish like a matador swirling his cape. The only
thing missing was a trumpet fanfare as the thirsty beer
buyers surged forward.
This scenario is not to be found in Rhode Island, where
no beer can be had on Sunday, no matter what time of
day it is. Both Maine and Vermont have laws with
serious fines for unregistered beer kegs.( But possibly
not as serious as Idaho, where an unregistered keg can
result in a $1000 fine and land you in jail for six
Even "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire contributes to
the silliness with its law which requires one to be sitting
down while drinking a beer. I guess if you attend a
ballgame that's "standing room only", you'll watch the
To be fair to New England, other states have even
crazier laws. In California, for example, beer can be sold
but it can't be displayed within five feet of a cash
register in store that sells both beer and motor fuel. I
suppose the reason for this regulation is so a motorist
who has just filled his gas tank and gone inside to pay
at the register won't be able spot a display of Budweiser
and impulsively buy a case or two to drink on the way
home. Of course, the law will not be able to deter a
motorist with superior vision who is able to see the legal
display positioned sixty one inches away from the
The Midwest is not exempt from inane beer laws. In
Indiana it is illegal to carry a drink from the bar to a
table, so when your table is ready, slam your beer down
the hatch and order another upon arrival.
Missouri prohibits drinking beer from a bucket while
seated on a curb. I'll have to do a little more research to
find out if it's okay to do some curbside imbibing while
drinking from a can or bottle, or if it's legal to swill from
a bucket while seated on a bench. If it IS okay to sit
on a curb and drink beer from a can , don't throw the
can in the garbage if one of your children's chores is
carrying out the trash, as the" Show Me" state has
made it illegal for anyone under 21 to carry out garbage
with even one empty beer can in it. I defy anyone to
"Show Me" why this makes any sense!
Nebraska prohibits selling beer in a bar unless the bar
also makes soup, and North Dakota bans the sale of
pretzels where beer is served. The food police giveth
and the food police taketh away!
Pennsylvania promotes friendship and camaraderie with
its stupid law requiring beer distributors to sell only
cases at a time, thus making it impossible for a beer
lover to try a sixpack of a newly offered beer unless he
travels with at least three of his friends. Each then buys
a case of different beer and the group divides them up.
Even the animal kingdom is protected from beer by our
fearless legislators. In Fairbanks, Alaska it is illegal to
serve beer to a moose. Keep this in mind if you take a
vacation to the Last Frontier and wish to share your
Alaskan Smoked Porter with the local wildlife.
One city in Missouri has found it necessary to make
certain its citizens don't give beer to elephants (maybe
Rogue Ale makes for a rogue elephant?), and fish in
Ohio are helped to maintain a state of sobriety by
legislators who have made it against the law to get a
fish drunk. This begs the question "How do we know if a
fish is drunk or not?" Certainly he can't be given a
Breathalyzer, since he never takes a breath, he can't be
made to touch his fingers to his nose, since he has
neither fingers nor nose and he can't be asked to recite
the alphabet backwards when he can't even say it
frontwards. I'd love to know what prompted that bill to
be proposed and passed.
The strength of beer has always been a great venue for
lawmakers to further restrict our freedom. Some states
mandate beer at only 3.2% alcohol. In Oklahoma and
Colorado beer over that limit must be sold in a liquor
store, while in Utah, only draught beer is required to
meet that standard. One of the best examples of
legislative stupidity is the law which requires beer over a
certain percentage to be labeled as "ale", as though ale,
by definition, is stronger than lager, which it is not.
But it's not only government that restricts our pleasure.
Some beer rules made by private entities easily rival the
insanity of government regulations. A year ago, on a DB
15 trip to the Newark Bears baseball game, I was asked
to show identification to prove I was over twenty one.
At sixty one, I was damned sure I could "pass" without
ID and told the eighteen year old vendor I refused. She
replied "That's our policy, so you ain't gettin' no beer!".
I slowly came to the realization that we no longer reside
in a free country and that management apparently had a
very low opinion of its employees' ability to use any
common sense, whatever, so I flashed my driver's
license which she didn't or couldn't read, received the
brew, and watched the rest of the game while
wondering whatever happened to common sense.
A tavern my father and I used to stop in forty years
ago, by its own choice would not sell draught beer on
Sundays. I never understood that rule since storing,
opening, pouring and disposing of empties makes a lot
more work for the innkeeper. But a beer rule is a beer
rule, so we sadly looked at the idle tap handles while
pouring from our bottles.
Some bars and brewpubs cut down on the size of the
glasses for really high gravity beers. This a rule which
has at least some basis in sense since an 8 or 9% beer
can easily sneak up on you and the ingredients are more
costly. But just recently I was in brewpub that served
such a brew only in half pints, but amazingly cut the
price in half as well! So what's the point?
Similar to this was a beer rule which I found on another
band trip to Massachusetts. We were staying in a
bar-less hotel far off the beaten track. But mercifully,
next door was a "99s", the Massachusetts equivalent of
a Ruby Tuesday's or TGI Fridays. A few of us ventured
in and were pleasantly surprised to find a decent array
of tap handles including Guinness, Bass, Sam's
Octoberfest , and Berkshire Steel Rail Ale.
When the barmaid gave us a choice of a 22 ounce or 16
ounce stein we naturally chose the 22. After a couple of
rounds we were informed that company policy dictates
no more than two 22 ouncers can be served to any one
customer at any one time. When she saw the look of
desperation on our faces she said it was not to worry
because we could just switch to the 16 ounce steins
and have as many of those as we liked. When I asked
her if we had started with the 16s could we then have a
couple of 22s later in the session, she replied "I guess
So theoretically a person could drink eight or nine 16s,
have two 22s and switch back to the 16s. Yeah!! THAT
sure limits the alcohol intake. Since I don't ever "do
shots", I didn't ask whether the two only 22 ouncer
policy figures shot downing into the mix. If not, I
suppose a person could drink several highballs or mixed
drinks before having the allowable two 22 ounce beers.
My own beer rule is "never write a 'Beer My Way' column
without finishing up with a brew. But I get to pick my
own size glass!!
has to say
and it could
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Beer My Way.........
Beernexus.com proudly presents....DAN HODGE, beer reviewer, historian and raconteur
anything and everything about beer
by Dan Hodge