Joe Sixpack: It's a state of confusion in nation's beer laws
LAST WEEK'S hearing on state beer registration rules left some observers scratching their heads: How is it, in an age when Pennsylvania boasts one of America's top beer scenes, that state residents must contend with such a complex range of anachronistic of laws?
It's a pain in the behind, for example, to have to go to one store for a case of beer and another for a sixpack.
It's utterly insane to buy two sixpacks in a bar, then be forced to step outside before buying the next two.
Pennsylvania, of course, isn't the only state with bizarro booze laws.
From dry counties to bans on strong beer, a strange mix of confusing state laws confounds adults simply trying to enjoy a cold one.
Many of these regulations go back more than 75 years, to the end of Prohibition, when the states took control of alcohol enforcement. It was an era when the Women's Christian Temperance Union was still alive and kicking, before Spuds McKenzie and the Swedish Bikini Team showed up on TV, when Internet sales weren't even a dream.
The puzzling web of state liquor laws aren't just an anachronism. I'd argue that the following laws are Exhibit 1 in any debate with "Tenthers," those state sovereignty fanatics who preach the holy word of the 10th Amendment.
In Utah, draft beer can contain no more than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, or 4 percent by volume. Even light-bodied Budweiser is 5 percent alcohol by volume; forget about enjoying a Russian imperial stout on tap.
It could be worse. Until recently, the Mormon state required demons, I mean drinkers, to pay a fee and fill out a membership form before being allowed to enter bars.
In Massachusetts, happy hours are illegal.
In Oklahoma (which was a dry state before Prohibition), you have to go to a liquor store to get anything stronger than 3.2 beer, and even then it must be sold at room temperature.
In Florida, it's against the law to sell beer in half-gallon containers - the standard size of a take-home growler that brewpubs fill with draft beer. You can legally purchase two 32-ounce bottles, however, or fill up a gallon-size bottle.
In Kentucky, 55 of the state's 120 counties are dry and 30 are wet. The remaining 35 are "moist," meaning you can drink beer in certain places, like a golf course.
In Iowa, you can't run a tab in a bar.
In Nebraska, it's a felony for bartenders to mix beer and hard liquor. While it's completely legal to make standard cocktails, like a Long Island Iced Tea, bartenders who drop a shot of whiskey into a beer can find themselves in cuffs.
After 75 years on the books, the boilermaker ban is finally moving toward repeal, with one brilliant state senator finally observing, "Doesn't it mix inside your body?"
In at least five states - New Hampshire, Vermont, Arizona, Utah and Missouri - minors who drink can be arrested for "internal possession" of alcohol.
Police don't have to catch kids with a can of beer. If they blow alcohol in a breath test - whether they're driving or not - they face charges.
In Texas, you can be arrested for public intoxication while sitting in a bar after as little as one beer.
Of course, the federal government may not be the ideal arbiter when it comes to alcohol laws.
After all, while most countries allow you to drink when you're 18 (16 in Germany and Italy), the United States is the only Western nation to impose a minimum 21-year-old legal drinking age.