Sitting in my Aunt’s living room on Thanksgiving, I looked at the only remaining beer – some warm Budweiser that my Grandmother brought over – and sighed. Funny how the Pilgrims that we were thanking might have ruined my plans. How did I end up at a Thanksgiving with no beer?
As some of you know, there is a lot going on in my life. I have, essentially, five different jobs which is about to become six. I work a lot but I love what I do so I don’t mind at all. And as long as I’m not falling asleep at the wheel, then I’m happy to keep being busy all the time.
But then there are times where being busy really sucks. Like, the week leading up to Thanksgiving, for example. I wrote a post last week with the help of some great Hop Press’rs about beers to bring to Thanksgiving, but didn’t find the time to get to my favorite beverage purveyors before hitting the road for Connecticut to visit relatives. Thinking that I could find my carefully-thought out suggestions or find something like them in Connecticut when I arrived, I paid it no mind. I left early in the morning and stopped at the Stop and Shop around the corner from my Aunt’s house to get my last-minute beer purchases. When I found the beer aisle, I was very surprised to see a large, ugly, thick brown tarp covering the beer section. In peeling and faded vinyl letters it said, “NO BEER SALES SUNDAY OR AFTER 9PM.”
I looked down at my watch and noticed it was 11:30 am. On a Thursday. I thought, “Maybe I was trying to buy beer too early in the day and I’ll have to wait around until noon. That would kind of suck.”
I then asked a supermarket employee who responded gruffly. “No beer sales today. Blue laws. Can’t sell any beer at night. Or on Sundays,” I pondered this for a minute, reminding myself that it was the middle of the day on a Thursday until he said, “or holidays.”
Now, to back up for a moment, growing up in New York, I was familiar with the so called “Blue Laws” that restrict activities for religious or historical reasons. Originating (ironically) in Connecticut, these laws – especially concerning alcohol – took hold during prohibition across the country, but many have been completely repealed because of unconstitutionality. In my home state of New York, I remember not being able to buy beer before noon on Sundays, with the reasoning being that you should “be in church” on a Sunday morning instead of buying beer or drinking, so they restricted sales. As odd as that one is, I guess I can see the logic there. And is there really that much demand for anything on Sunday mornings? Most of the time I don’t get up until noon anyway!
But Connecticut, it seems, goes farther. The sales at night are supposedly to reduce drunk driving. Though that is a worthy goal, let us think about that for a moment. If you’re buying beer to consume at home (as most people are when they’re buying beer at a grocery store) then you’re not driving anywhere after consuming the alcohol, right? So personally, I’m not sure how the beer ban at night is helping the overall situation, but I welcome any state statistics if you can dig them up (I haven’t had any luck yet).
The part about this that was the most ridiculous, however, was the idea that selling alcohol on holidays is somehow wrong. I think this may come from the Puritan-esque misconception that all alcohol is 1) just for intoxication and/or 2) bad, morally wrong, or at the least a negative influence. Forget all of the benefits of pairing a glass of wine with dinner or dessert, or being able to actually enjoy good beer with turkey and all the trimmings. This confronts a fundamentally antiquated idea, and personally, I think it no longer fits in our American culture.
Blue Laws like these only serve to stifle the innovative, healthy and enjoyable things that alcohol can bring to a nice dinner, evening with friends, or otherwise. It also degrades some customs – such as bringing a bottle of wine to the host or hostess of a dinner party if the party falls on a state-sanctioned holiday.
While much of the blame for my beer-poor Thanksgiving does rest on my own shoulders for not planning ahead, imagine if craft beer enthusiasts, or even amateurs, read all of the wonderful ideas and wanted to try some pairing of their own? Well in Connecticut, at least, they’ve been cut off at the knees.