The North Carolina Senate paved the way Wednesday for the sale of stronger beers within the state, giving final approval to a bill that raises the alcohol limit of malt beverages from 6 to 15%. The measure appeared to be on a fast track a little more than a month ago, but got hung up in committee and looked as if it might get squashed.
The final vote was 27-21 in favor of raising beer strength. “We did it!” said Julie Bradford, of the nonprofit group Pop the Cap, which had worked for more than two years to change the law.
The bill goes to Gov. Mike Easley, and unless he vetoes the change, so-called “big” beers would be legal across the state in 10 days. But the beers probably won’t start showing up until distribution agreements are finalized.
“We won’t rest until this is signed into law,” said Bradford. “This was a real grass-roots group and it showed you can go to the Legislature and knock on their door and be heard.”
Asheville’s Highland Brewing Company has already brewed a batch of 8% Scottish-style ale, for which it will now seek permits to sell in North Carolina, said brewery founder Oscar Wong.
Under the current law, which dated to the repeal of Prohibition, beers in North Carolina are limited to 6% alcohol by volume, although much stronger wines and potent liquors were permitted. Only six states still held beer to 6% alcohol.