Wednesday, January 23, 2008

B'ham Bud's response: How about a phone call?

An executive for a Birmingham beer distributor says he's not happy with calls by a beer enthusiasts' group to boycott his company's products.

A post earlier today carried the news that Free the Hops is calling for a boycott of Birmingham Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch's Jefferson County distributor. FTH president Stuart Carter said the company's vice president, Pat Lynch, was opposing a bill in the Legislature that would raise the allowed alcohol-by-volume in beer sold in Jefferson County.

Pat Lynch, speaking with The Star today, said he is opposed to such a local bill, and that he helped block a similar local bill last year, but that he has taken no steps to pre-empt anything that might be introduced in the Legislature's upcoming session.

"They assume that that’s our position," Lynch said. "It would be good before somebody boycotts us for somebody to call and ask our position."

Lynch said he thinks local bills to raise the 6-percent alcohol-by-volume cap on beer sold in Alabama are a bad idea because they would create a patchwork of regulations for the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to enforce. He said he does support a bill to raise the cap statewide.

A 2007 bill backed by Free the Hops to raise the cap statewide went nowhere after a measure to bring it up for consideration in the Senate failed. FTH backed a number of local bills to raise the cap in some communities, but those failed as well. Lynch said he took action to block the Jefferson County bill because it would have raised the cap and allowed for containers larger than 16 ounces. He said that violated a compromise distributors had worked out with FTH to only lift the 6-percent cap.

FTH says the 6-percent cap and 16-ounce container limit restrict consumer choice, and prevent some of the world's finest craft beers from being sold here. Alabama is one of three states to limit beer's alcohol by volume to 6 percent. The others are Mississippi and West Virginia. Grassroots movements similar to FTH have seen ABV limits in South Carolina and Georgia lifted in recent years.

Lynch said he continues to support a statewide bill raising the ABV limit. He said he might still be willing to discuss that and perhaps a local bill with FTH, but that the call for a boycott wouldn't help.

"A boycott's not going to endear me into negotiations," he said.

The proposed boycott calls on consumers and retailers to avoid buying Anheuser-Busch products distributed by Birmingham Budweiser in Jefferson County.