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Local beer thrives (86th-anniversary edition)

Sorry, Senator Sheppard -- just three years after you were reported to have said this in 1930, the law that you authored and championed prohibiting the sale of alcohol in the U.S. was overturned.

In fact, today -- April 7 -- has been adopted as "National Beer Day" in the U.S., marking the day in 1933 that the Cullen-Harrison Act was enacted; the Cullen-Harrison Act legalized the sale of beer with an alcohol content of 3.2% (by weight) and wine of similarly low alcohol content, thought to be too low to be intoxicating. Upon signing the legislation, Roosevelt famously quipped, "I think this would be a good time for a beer." The April 7 law led to the repeal later that year of the Eighteenth Amendment, with the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution.

But why are we still talking about 1930s-era laws? Well, because some legislation from that long-ago time hangs on, and because some states continue to impose rules that effectively to curb local brewers' entrepreneurial and creative efforts.

We're still talking about laws from the 1930s because it took until March 2019 for the state of Utah to agree to repeal the state's cap on the alcohol level of beer sold in retail and convenience stores: The compromise reached would raise alcohol levels sold in many retail outlets to 4% from the 1933 level of 3.2%.

We're still talking about laws from the 1930s because just last fall, New Jersey's alcohol commission enacted and then quickly retracted -- under fire -- a number of new restrictions aimed at curbing events and food options at the state's craft-beer taprooms and tasting rooms.

And we're still talking about laws from the 1930s because eight states -- including craft-beer havens Vermont and Massachusetts -- still ban happy hours, No one is encouraging overconsumption, but it could be argued that happy hour bans stifle competition and innovation.

Our point: Celebrate Beer Day, celebrate Repeal Day (each December 5, the anniversary of the actual passage of the amendment to repeal Prohibition), hell--celebrate Arthur Guinness's birthday (September 24: mark your calendars). But keep in mind that even as the U.S. seems to be awash right now in lovingly made, locally sold, sociably consumed craft beer, many federal/state/local regulations remain for brewers and their beer-loving neighbors. Let's help our local brewers clear these hurdles.

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