Crossing into the neighboring state of Connecticut, we’ll make a stopover in the idyllic coastline county of Fairfield. But it’s almost nine-thirty at night and I forgot: you can’t buy beer in the Nutmeg State after nine o’clock. Then again, it’s Sunday, so no alcohol can be sold in any stores at all today. Connecticut remains the only Northeast state yet to rescind this faith-based ‘Blue Law,’ a kind of protectionist code originally designed to shield Christian businesses from competition on the Sabbath.
You can still find suds in restaurants, bars and pubs after nine, but that leaves a relatively austere selection. Wait a minute, this in Wilton, which up until a few years ago was one of those dry towns. Prohibition here was finally lifted, but you’ll only find beer in restaurants.
Greg Zannella, director of sales for Northeast Beverage of Connecticut, says distributors and brewers also face an obstacle that can preclude some beers from even making it into the state. “Recruiting new and different brands can be difficult,” he notes, “because the cost to a small brewery to register their brands is a thousand dollars per label. We hear from some smaller brewers that it’s too expensive and it’s a large risk for them, because they don’t know how much beer they’re going to sell going into a new market.”
Getting that headache? Nothing a good microbrew can’t cure. I know a guy in the Carolinas who might be able to help.
As a general rule, the majority of craft beers in the United States are regional treasures distributed within a relatively small radius of their home counties and states. So, you shouldn’t expect to find a lot of your favorite small craft brews as we travel from state to state. Still, LeVine, president of Carolina Craft Distributing, has dedicated his company’s beer portfolio to showcase a wide and eclectic array of specialty craft beers from across the country: from Michigan, Clipper City from Baltimore, Smuttynose from New Hampshire, Colorado’s Boulder Beer and Bear Republic from California are all in the house, to name but a few.
“I’ve always been a craft man,” states LeVine, who distributes to retail stores in both North and South Carolina, preaching the gospel of craft brew. “That’s how I make placements and sell a lot of beer, by teaching the store owner about that product and making him a believer that that those brands do make him money.”
Bear in mind that distributors don’t just store and deliver beer, they are also charged with promoting the brand. What winds up on the retail shelves has a lot to do with how well versed and enthusiastic a sales rep is about a particular beer. LeVine bemoans that in South Carolina, the law deprives both distributor and consumer of an effective promotional tool.
“You cannot have a beer-tasting for consumers at a package store in South Carolina. You can have liquor tasting on your left and wine tasting on your right,” objects LeVine, “but you cannot do a beer tasting in South Carolina. It’s a Prohibition-era law that we’re fighting.”