July 1st
Beer raising money for oil spill relief is illegal in Alabama, Mississippi::Mobile Press-Register
MOBILE, Ala. -- One of the Gulf Coast's most famous breweries has crafted a new beer and promised to send a portion of the money earned on each bottle to oil spill relief efforts.

But Abita's Save Our Shores Charitable Pilsner won't be sold in two of the four states affected.

The beer is 7 percent alcohol, too potent to be sold in Mississippi, and it's served in a 22-ounce bottle that's too big under Alabama law.

"I'm sitting here feeling quite irritated at the state," said Stuart Carter, a Birmingham resident and president of the Free the Hops advocacy group that wants fewer restrictions on beer production and sales. "Because of a stupid, archaic, nonsensical restriction on container size, Alabamians are being prevented from taking part in a tasty way to help out the entire Gulf Coast."

The S.O.S. Pilsner will hit shelves in states where it can be sold in mid-July, said Beth Harris, a public relations representative for Abita. A bottle will cost about $5, and 75 cents of each sale will go to a fund that will be used to support oil spill-related causes of the company's choosing, she said.

She said that the company used the 22-ounce bottles because it's the quickest way to get the lager to market. A 22-ounce bottle, sold as a single, requires getting only one label approved by the federal government, whereas a 12-ounce bottle requires approval for labels on the front, back and six-pack container.

Carter and Butch Bailey, president of Raise Your Pints, a Mississippi-based beer advocacy group, both said that it's not Abita's fault that local residents will have to cross state lines to buy the beer. They blame state laws that they say are outdated.

Free the Hops formed in 2004. Its lobbying efforts helped persuade the Alabama Legislature to raise the legal alcohol content in beer from 6 percent to 14.9 percent locally.

Container size is one of the organization's next targets, Carter said. Current law allows individual beers to be sold in containers that are 16 ounces or smaller.
"You can't by a 22-ounce bottle, but you can buy a case of 12-ounce bottles. How does this make sense?" Carter said.

Raise Your Pints is trying to match Free the Hops' success with alcohol content in Mississippi's Legislature. Mississippi law currently allows beer that is 5 percent or less alcohol by weight, which translates to about 6.2 percent alcohol by volume, Bailey said.

Harris said that Abita doesn't have any plans to sell the S.O.S. Pilsner in anything other than 22-ounce bottles, but she said anything is possible if sales continue long into the future. After Hurricane Katrina, the brewery began selling Restoration Ale, with some proceeds going to hurricane recovery funds. The beer remains on the market.

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