Baptists and big brewers might seem like odd bedfellows, but in the South they’ve found themselves on the same side of an issue. According to a study at the University of Louisville, they’re the two main reasons there aren’t more craft breweries.
Professor Stephan Gohmann, author of “Why Are There so Few Breweries in the South?,” says that Baptists are more vocally opposed to alcohol sales than any other religious denomination. Apparently Mormons are too polite to lobby against microbrewers.
“By Gohmann’s findings, Baptists opposed to such breweries have found assistance from the major breweries,” reports Louisville Business First. Companies like Anheuser-Busch Inbev and MillerCoors LLC throw money behind politicians and legislation that make it harder for craft breweries to operate.
According to Gohmann’s research, states such as Indiana that allow craft brewers to self-distribute have 50% more breweries than states such as Kentucky, where brewers have to go through a distribution company. The major breweries often own distributorships, giving them an advantage in those states and making it incredibly difficult for a small brewer to get their beer into bars and stores.
Which is a crying shame, because there are some excellent beers being brewed below the Mason-Dixon line. Florida and Georgia are home to some of the region’s top breweries, and yet in 2013 those states ranked 46th and 47th when it came to breweries per capita. (North Carolina came in at a more respectable 22nd place.)
According to the Brewer’s Association, an average of 1.5 new craft breweries opened per day in 2014, contributing to an industry worth $19.6 billion. If Southern legislators stopped hindering that growth in their own states, they could be reaping the economic benefits right about now—and drinking some kickass brews to celebrate.