Whisky and Beer

A paradox of life in the South: we have the fewest number of breweries by state, but by far the largest and best American whisky producers. What explains it?
Around the nation, big beer producers contribute to the campaigns of politicians who will support policies that discourage competition from local upstarts—for example, taxes on breweries and laws that prevent breweries from selling their kegs directly to consumers (instead of through a distributor). But what's unique about the South is that there's a voting bloc—the Baptists—whose moral stance against alcohol happens to align with large producers' desires to keep new competitors from getting started in the business.
So micro-brew is becoming increasingly popular, and only in the South can big breweries effectively smash their competition by using government to restrict people from entering the field of competition. Micro-whisky isn't much an issue as yet, but if it became one, it might follow the same pattern. Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey would then be a kind of historical accident; you might see a similar pattern of distribution to micro-breweries, just because they'd find it easier in non-Baptist states to get the laws changed to make their business legal.

It's an interesting theory. The South does have some microbreweries, including several good ones not too far from me. I'm a fan of the Highland Brewing Company's Oatmeal Porter, and Terrapin Brewery's Hopsecutioner IPA . North Carolina's beer culture is starting to flourish, at least in the mountain west. As for Terrapin, it has a brand new competitor in downtown Athens, Georgia: a brewery called Creature Comforts that is set up in an old tire shop.

UPDATE: So this video of New Yorkers trying moonshine reminds me that there has been a trend of fake moonshine drinks that have been approved around the South the last few years. I've never tried any of them, for two reasons.

1) I hate attempts by the soft to create tourist versions of the South. The last time I passed through Pigeon Forge on the way to the Smoky Mountains, I stopped at a place called The Iron Boar Saloon, billing itself "Best Biker Bar in Pigeon Forge." The bartender looked horrified when I walked into the place. It was all stucco and Yuppies in khaki shorts.

2) I've had enough real moonshine that I don't feel any special nostalgia for it. That stuff will wreck you. I only consent to drink it when a friend has made it, will have his feelings hurt if I don't try it, and I'm settled in for the night and not going anywhere at all before morning. This usually happens around a campsite, as the stuff doubles as a very effective fuel for beer-can alcohol stoves.

Still, the video is amusing -- especially when, after several tourist versions, they finally produce the real stuff at the end. Ninety percent pure, baby.

1 comment:

Elise said...

In her book Southern Ladies and Gentlemen, Florence King wrote about the support for dry counties coming from both Baptists and bootleggers. Same idea, different second player. :+)