State lawmakers are looking to spur business wherever they can, but one industry hopes to change local palates as well as local economies: breweries.
While they haven't had much luck in Washington, beer advocates are having more success at the state level. Last year, Alabama became the last state to legalize home brewing. A bill wending its way through the state Legislature this week would allow larger Alabama brewers to open restaurants at their breweries. The only hitch: No brewery in Alabama is big enough to qualify for the law.
Alabama is working to change that. The state is now trying to lure high-profile breweries from out of state, like Stone Brewing in California. In 2012, Alabama ranked 49th in breweries per capita. But with recent laws like the Alabama Brewery Modernization Act, which allows craft brewers to sell their wares where they're brewed, Alabama is hoping to raise its profile as a destination for brewers and beer aficionados alike.
Still, compared with other booze, the beer industry is struggling to keep its brand recognition. Unlike years ago, more people today say they prefer drinking wine or liquor instead of beer. Despite the relative decline of beer's popularity, there has been an explosion of craft breweries around the country — in 2012, the craft-brewing industry saw 15 percent growth. Larger mainstream products like Blue Moon and Pabst Blue Ribbon are enjoying rapid growth. There are almost 2,000 craft breweries in the U.S. There's even a congressional Small Brewers Caucus.