“The tradition of getting absolutely hammered is as old as civilization itself. Commercial breweries date back to ancient Mesopotamia, proving that alcohol is essential to human achievement. But where there’s good beer, there are always crappy beer laws. The Code of Hammurabi limited how much beer citizens could receive each day, and to this day, our right to crack open a cold one is subject to various restrictions. Until recently, Nebraska required brewers to physically hand off their beer to a distributor for a certain amount of time–known as an “at rest” law–and then essentially buy it back in order to sell it at their own taprooms. The law was mercifully reformed, but Nebraska still remains one of several states that completely prohibits breweries from directly sending their own beer to outside retail locations, even if they’re right down the street.”
So, now that you’ve got yourself a cheeky classic cocktail riff and a small sample of the silly laws that inspired it, let’s turn our attention back to the interview.
Jarrett Dieterle is a resident senior fellow studying alcohol policy at the R Street Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C. His book, Give me Liberty and Give me a Drink, was published on September 15, 2020. It details the ironic, comical, and often extraneous booze-related laws enforced in the United States. Dieterle humorously assigns an inspired cocktail to each regulation, bringing an air of comedy to his writing as well as a clever way to expose the idiocies of these policies. His goal, as he states, is to give people bite-sized access to a wealth of information on the topic of alcohol policy which they may have previously taken for granted. He emphasizes that these idiosyncrasies are not bound to one state; they expand over the entirety of our country, rooted in Colonial times.
The one thing Dieterle hopes a reader will take away from Give me Liberty and Give me a Drink is that they begin to question their surroundings. Give me Liberty and Give me a Drink takes something which functions in the background of awareness and systematizes it, transforming it into a cohesive existence which prompts the question of why? Why do these laws exist? Why do we need them?
The age-old dichotomy between freedom and security is often brought up in the argument of alcohol regulation. The negative externalities are obvious. Jarrett is not trying to deny that drunk driving, alcohol abuse, and illicit alcohol are issues that need government supervision. However, it becomes nonsensical when we focus on Prohibition-era laws which have prevailed past the 21st century. For example, the Massachusetts “Blue Laws,” which prevent the purchase of alcohol on Sundays and require businesses to pay compensation if they wish to continue sales. There is no discernable pattern in their data that the Blue Laws have impacted drunk driving, and yet the regulations stay in place.
Some other rather infamous laws include: