Why Does Alabama Want to Collect Data on Craft Beer Drinkers?

The Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board is considering a new rule that would require anyone who buys beer to take home at a craft brewery to provide their name, address, age, and phone number to the brewery.
August 9, 2016, 6:00pm
Photo via Flickr user Allagash Brewing

"What we're engaged in here is a polite war. It's not about bullets and bombs, borders or territories. The currency of this war is information. Zeroes and ones, Nathan. Data."

That's a line from Taylor Lautner's 2011 cinematic masterpiece, Abduction. That said, it just as easily could have been uttered by Alabama's acting alcohol regulators.

In Alabama, a law took effect on June 1 that allowed craft breweries within state lines to sell six packs, large bottles, and other assorted containers of beer directly to consumers—a first for the Bible Belt state. The new regulation had a limitation attached to it, though: The quantity of beer that can be sold to any given person on any given date is limited to 288 ounces.

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Now, in an apparent attempt to enforce this quantity limitation, the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board is considering a new rule that would require anyone who buys beer to take home at a craft brewery to provide their name, address, age, and phone number to the brewery for collection by the governmental agency.

Needless to say, the Alabama Brewers Guild, along with other industry groups, are expecting customers to be pissed off at the invasion of their privacy.

"As nonsensical as it might seem, this rule would essentially empower the ABC Board to come to an individual's house to confirm his or her purchase of a six pack of beer," said Nick Hudson of Free the Hops, a grassroots group that promotes craft breweries in the state.

The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board hasn't yet publicly explained why it wants to implement the rule, which is scheduled to be considered at a meeting on September 28. According to the Alabama Brewers Guild, which opposes the proposed regulation, the whole thing is misguided: "I'm honestly not sure they thought it out very well," said Dan Roberts, executive director of the Guild. He says that the agency told him it wanted the information in order to better enforce the 288-ounce limit.

Industry groups are complaining that the regulation would be an administrative nightmare for craft breweries. They'd have to worry about possible data breaches—and no one is sure what the limitations are, if any, on the governmental use of the personal information.

READ MORE: How Britain's Tax Laws Are Hurting the UK's Craft Beer Scene

Worst of all, the craft brewers expect the rule to scare away customers. Roberts said, "It's a huge deal logistically. Also, there are purchasers who just won't do it. They'd go to Publix instead of buying at a brewery," referring to the Southern supermarket chain.

Roberts told Alabama's Times Free Press that he knows of no other state that collects information about consumers who purchase beer. He certainly doesn't want Alabama to set a new trend—and we'd hazard a guess that not too many beer drinkers want that either.

Looks like the controversial Gadsden flag might just be due for a beer-centric update.