Prohibition was repealed in 1933, but its vestigial claws still grasp the brewing industry to this day.
In Minnesota, the specter of Republican Sen. Andrew Volstead, who drafted the namesake act that became the 21st Amendment, looms. It appears weekly in the form of "closed" signs at local liquor stores and annually in the form of the Minnesota State Legislature's obstinate refusal to repeal the ban on Sunday sales.
"[Prohibition] is a failed experiment — the failed experiment," says Andrew Schmitt, director of MBA. "So why are people in Minnesota clutching on to these antiquated laws? Are you trying to be backwards?"
The fruit of LTD and MBA's collaboration is Sunday Sales Pale Ale (5.5% ABV, 47 IBU), a limited run bottle series that honors the right of the consumer to choose when and where they buy their beer. The brewery and the organization celebrated Sunday Sales' release on May 1 with bottle sales and a petition (which is up to over 8,000 signatures; you can sign it here). As soon as it opened, the tiny Hopkins microbrewery was packed, acting as an extremely physical reminder of who state legislatures are disenfranchising with their archaic sensibilities.
"A lot of people are working moms and dads that want the opportunity to shop at retailers," Schmitt says, "and those retailers want to give that opportunity to them."
Breweries are actually the only businesses allowed to sell beer on Sundays in Minnesota, and therefore stand to lose market share by liquor stores gaining the same freedom. And yet, brewers far and wide have supported the repeal of Sunday prohibition. To them, it's a moral issue. Just two years ago, the LTD brewers were everyday beer drinkers trying to have a pint on a Sunday.
"It's an issue that's close to their heart, and it's an issue they've supported for a long time, and now they have a chance to do so in a more vocal way," Schmitt says. "It means a lot to have their support. It'd be easy for these guys to not intervene. They can sell growlers on Sunday, but there's more than just themselves at stake."
The issue of Sunday sales is long past being a manner of religious objection; ministers and priests have gladly signed MBA's petition. It seems now that the resistance to change is being led by bars, breweries, and restaurants who are afraid to give up their full share of the booze market on the first day of the week.
"Restaurants don't want to give that opportunity to off-sale retailers," Schmitt says. "Change is hard, and I appreciate that perspective. The fact of the matter is that it works in every state that surrounds us, and it would work here."
Sunday Sales Pale Ale will be released in a limited run of 500 bottles, an estimated 250 of which will be sold at the brewery. It'll be on tap at LTD and also Hollywood Roadhouse while supplies last, but the brewery and MBA anticipate that, like the call to end the ban on Sunday sales, the beer will be met with much support.
One of the movements biggest supporters is local artist Adam Turman, who designed the "very patriotic" (Schmitt's phrasing) bottle. It's emblazoned with a 52-pointed star burst and seven stars, representing the ideal availability of beer in the market place — seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
The beer itself isn't very radical, which does well to sell the idea that retailing beer on Sunday shouldn't be either. With citra and centennial hops leading the way to a refreshing spring ale, its taste and feel aren't nearly as confrontational as its politics.
But Sunday Sales Pale Ale is not some vague Libertarian battle cry, nor is it an outright fuck-you to legislators who've fought to keep liquor stores shuttered on the Sabbath. The beer is a call to reason. A simple, fresh-tasting, pale ale that, after a few sips, prompts the question, "Shit, why shouldn't I be able to buy this any time I want?"
The Minnesota Legislature could cellar it and use it to wash down that crow they'll be eating next time the issue comes to a vote.
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