Free Brewski with Your Thai Chicken Pizza?

A new California law legalizing free beer tastings at bars and restaurants went into effect on January 1, according to a recent AP story (via Slashfood). Until now, the wine and spirits industries were allowed to give out free samples at watering holes around the state, but beer manufacturers could offer tastings only at their own breweries and private tasting rooms.

It’s hard to know what to make of the new law, though. The main backer of the legislation is Anheuser-Busch (the maker of everybody’s frat-party favorite, Bud Light, plus several new lines of flavored malt beverages). California microbreweries, worried that the law would give big companies like Busch an unfair advantage—presumably because they could afford to give away more beer than the small fries, thereby worming their way into the public’s hearts—opposed to the bill at first. The state’s Small Brewers Association withdrew its opposition once limits were put on the tastings (8 ounces per person per day at each location); still, that hasn’t quelled the fears of some microbrewers.

But then, this other opposition group—the California Council on Alcohol Problems, a religious coalition—is pretty annoyed. Or at least its lawyer is. As he puts it,

What is the reason behind giving someone 8 ounces of beer free? One could argue that with wineries, each winery is different and every bottle is different depending on age or season. But we’re talking about beer here.

Looks like somebody’s been drinking too much light beer and/or flavored malt beverage.

What about other states—anyone seen beer manufacturers giving away free samples in bars? Not even the beer geeks have mentioned anything one way or another.

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