“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” — Pericles, 430 B.C.

Not much has changed in 2400 years since this ancient promoter of democracy penned those words.  I am bewildered every time I hear the complacent citizen state:  “I don’t care about politics.”  It is hard for me to grasp how someone can care so little about a system and the people within it that are passing laws that have such an intimate impact on their lives.

When it comes to the alcohol industry, the amalgam of both state and federal regulations form a dense jungle that not only make it difficult for brewers to to do business, but for consumers to purchase their product.  The majority of the time, alcohol legislation is very reactionary in nature and does little to no good in resolving the problem it is addressing.

Such is the case with the California proposal to ban caffeinated brew.  Legislatures, as they see it, who perceive themselves as appointed watchdogs for the citizens, feel that caffeinated brews are detrimental to the well being of the consumer.  The consumer may feel that the stimulant effect of caffeine are counter-effective the depressing effect of the alcohol, rendering them effective vehicular navigators despite intoxication.  I’m sure this happens.

I’ve been to clubs and seen slobbering drunk but hyperactive college students with Red Bull and Vodka or a Sparks energy beer in hand dancing further into the night than if they were drinking straight Vodka.  I’ve seen hop into their cars and hit the road, putting their lives and others at risk.  But I’ve also seen their friends drink Corona all night long and hit the road as well.  Sure.  They are breaking the law.

But is banning the drink the right solution?  Will drunk driving stats really diminish with caffeinated alcohol off the market?  And, as a recent article points out, craft or artisanal beer is threatened in California.  As you are surely aware, coffee is often a key ingredient in many finely crafted craft brews.  Should such a law banning beers with alcohol pass, you can forget finding your favorite coffee stout on the shelves of you favorite bottle shop, a beer that I would guess hardly contributes to the problem.  Seriously, when is the last time you popped into your local techno club and saw a dude dancing with glow sticks in one hand and a bottle of Kentucky Breakfast Stout in the other.

Besides the fact that this is classic case of throwing the baby out with bathwater, should even a beer such as Sparks, marketed to reckless youth be banned?  I mean, there seems to be legislation in place already that is aimed at protecting the citizen:  Drunk driving laws and public intoxication laws come to mind.

The passing of such a law damages not only you, the conscientious consumer, but the brewer, who looses sales and has to add yet another legal mine to navigate past.

Now I hate to be pragmatic, as I would simply be flawed methodology of the lawmakers in this case.  Alcohol laws are slippery slopes into further legislation that restricts the purchase freedom of the consumer.  Just watch Beer Wars and attempt to grapple with the silly distribution laws that evolved from some piece of well intentioned legislation.

But we asked for this.  Yes, we Americans have continually been abdicating all normal responsibilities of adulthood–like responsible living, driving, and alcohol consumption–to higher authorities.  That’s no political statement, just an objective observation.  Perhaps we need to take a stand and tell our lawmakers that in this case, we can get buy without their watchful hand.  Sure we might need to take on some responsibility and take a little bit more time to teach our kids that Sparks is best enjoyed while the keys to the car out of reach (or in my case, teach them that Sparks is downright gross) and that alcohol while a great beverage, a treat, a blessing, and perhaps a livelihood, does have the potential to cause harm.

Last time I checked, we are still a representative democracy; that is, our lawmakers are hired by us to represent our opinions, not pass arbitrary legislation that they feel does our body good.  If such is the case, call your lawmaker at every level (city, state, federal) and voice your opinion.  If you cherish the freedom to walk down to the store and pick up a Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout, your senator will not know unless you tell him/her.  The passionate devotees to prohibition-esque causes are placing their phone calls, are you?

Sure politics may not be your thing.  You might hate talking about it, but politics is  talking about you, and your beer.  I’m not being cynical or a jerk.  I am sure that many behind this bill love their constituents and want them to feel safe when they navigate the road their taxes paid to pave…I just don’t think another restrictive purchasing law is the solution.

Update:

Scott from the BrewClub passed along this link for all those Californians who are interested in trying to keep their shelves stocked with their favorite coffee brews:

http://www.legislature.ca.gov/port-zipsearch.html