With things like the New York Beer Trail and its more hesitant cousin Ontario's Craft Beer Route, North American legislators are waking up to the potential for craft beer tourism these days and it is sometimes a bit of a shock for them to learn that they and the legacy of their elected predecessors may be a key road block to success. Consider this situtation in West Virginia:
Quirky old West Virginia laws rooted in the Prohibition era make it tough on tourist attractions, small businesses and others who could profit by the manufacture and sale of gourmet beers. Current state law allows only "nonintoxicating" beer, defined as brew with an alcohol content of no more than 6 percent. This definition is laughable, as multitudes of tipsy college students and tavern patrons can attest. The limit applies to typical grocery store brands commonly abused by young people.Fine ales like fine wine, fine local cheese and other local products are the sorts of consumer discretionary purchases that help local economies thrive. Maintaining such odd concepts as "nonintoxicating" beer standards are simply farce - except for the fact that that they shoot the local opportunity in the foot.
For a couple of decades now, microbreweries with regional names and appeal have been growing in popularity. Their beers tend to have higher alcohol, some up to 15 percent. Despite consumer demand, West Virginia’s upscale restaurants, ski resorts and other outlets have not been allowed to stock these beers. This puts border establishments at a disadvantage, compared to nearby ones across the state line. Who knows how many West Virginia-brewed beers might have caught on nationally or internationally, if they had been allowed to acquire a West Virginia following first?