'Pop the Cap'

North Carolina near passing law to allow beer stronger than 6%

July 6, 2005 - A North Carolina Senate committee has approved a bill raising the state's alcohol-content limit. The measure already passed the House.


North Carolina is only one of six states that cap the alcohol content of beer at 6%, but this law would the limit to 15%.

The Senate Commerce Committee recommended the bill to the full chamber after little debate - a contrast to the hand wringing within the House before its approval in May. At the time, the bill was nearly detoured as some legislators tried to raise the tax on higher alcohol-content beers to levels comparable with those on wine and liquor.

Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, the bill's primary sponsor, told the Senate panel that the microbrewing industry - much like the state's burgeoning wine business - would grow and potentially create 300 jobs if the bill passed. Countering arguments that higher alcohol beers would appeal to younger (and underage) drinkers, he said beers are more apt to be bought by adults because they are more expensive than popular national brands and are sought for their exceptional tastes, LaRoque said.

"These are folks that might buy organic vegetables or go to finer restaurants," he said. He added later: "It's a specialty-type product."

"Pop the Cap" campaign leaders have been working to boost the limit for the past 2 1/2 years. The group hired a lobbyist, raised contributions through breweries, restaurants and individuals, and created a website to get out their message.