List beer’s alcohol content? In Maine, that’s illegal. And crazy.

on 05/02/14 at 2:44 pm

Beer

indexMaine brewers and taverns are puzzled by enforcement of an old law that bans the potency numbers from menus and signs.

Maine’s beer industry is booming, and at the heart of the craft beer movement is a cadre of brewers who are pushing the limits of what beer can be, with sub-genres, niche products and a wide array of choices.

But lurking in state law is a 1937 provision that is confounding brewers and bar owners, who learned in recent weeks that displaying a beer’s alcohol content on signs or menus is illegal.

“(The law is) absolutely asinine,” said Greg Norton, whose store on Forest Avenue in Portland, the Bier Cellar, specializes in small-batch beer and wine. “It’s an important piece of knowledge for a customer, to plan how many beers they’re going to have that night.”

It’s unclear why the restriction was added to state law, which included rules for Maine’s post-Prohibition liquor industry with arcane terms such as “high test,” “high proof” and “pre-war strength.” Legislative documents from the time suggest it was aimed at advertisements that sold beer based solely on its strength.

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