Thursday, July 30, 2015

Unique Drinking Laws and Regulations To Know While Traveling



Unlike The Clash – or the Bobby Fuller Four for our more seasoned readers – I haven’t really fought it, so it never really won.
“Wait, I didn’t know someone else sang ‘Rock The Casbah’? I’m so confused!”
No I’m talking about the law, and in my head the first thing I think about when I see that word is constraints. Hell, when I think of law I think of red and blue lights, handcuffs and episodes of Locked up Abroad. I don’t know why, I must have an active imagination.
My oddness aside, the alcohol industry worldwide is home to some actual odd laws. As societies have grappled with the morality associated with alcohol – see US prohibition, banned alcohols such as absinthe, religious prohibition, etc – many unique laws have been born and remain on the books today.
So before you cram that final pair of sweatpants into your suitcase, take a gander through these unique boozy regulations to hopefully keep your glass full of something good while traveling.
Minimum Age Laws
Discreetly drinking under 21
How young is too young to enjoy a drink? If there was any time in my life that I really bucked the law – very discreetly – it was during those formative years between 16-21. Growing up in a place that has a very active drinking culture – hell Wisconsin (where I grew up) has a law on the books allowing minors to belly up to the bar with their parents – fueled curiosity, keggers on farms and late night calls to my parents for a ride. For those who would like to follow the law and travel at the same time, we offer you places to explore and have a drink without worrying about dumping out your hooch while an officer watches.
18 years and drinking-Most of the world isn’t that unique at all when it comes to the minimum drinking age. Over 60% of the countries in the world share a minimum age of 18 years old – a few of these countries like Canada have certain areas where the age is 19.
Everyone’s invited- That’s great news for backpackers looking to “find themselves” – and a beer – in  Europe while attending university (or high school if you’re headed to Spain, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and a few others because the age is 16). Even better news for the youngsters among us, 19 countries have no minimum drinking age. 14 year old me will be meeting you in Bolivia soon for a Chuflay!
No Booze for You-The most important note to age laws is another subset of countries that have no age laws because alcohol is banned.  16 countries have made alcohol illegal and – with a few exceptions – anyone caught with it will face a stiff penalty. One country of note is Qatar because they will be hosting a large contingent of boozy travelers in the near future and I for one look forward to seeing how that is handled. Know before you go to these spots and respect the law, your drink will be waiting for you at home.
Blue Laws
Hmm...maybe Election Day alcohol bans could help us avoid obvious election fraud like this
It’s Sunday – or Election Day – and you’re relaxing in your hotel, hostel, luxury rental house, etc….and you’d rather chill than hit the bar again. No problem, send someone down to the local liquor market to pick up the days libations, right? Well, if you’re in one of these places you’ll either be hitting the bar or go dry on Sunday.
Norway- no alcohol sales on Sunday or Election Day

Chile- You’ll have to wait until Sunday afternoon and if it’s Election Day you’ll have to wait until the day after Election Day

Turkey- Election Day ban

Random thought: I feel like elections would look different in the US if we had Election Day alcohol bans.

Arkansas- no Sunday alcohol sales

Florida- 3 counties ban alcohol sales on Sunday (Lafayette, Liberty, and Washington). Luckily none of them are beach counties

Minnesota- The state has tried and tried to overturn this law, but you’ll still have to cross the border to Wisconsin on Sunday to get your booze.

Quirky Rules on Ingredients/Alcohol Content

It may not be "pure", but it's so damn good
When it comes to alcohol regulations, some of what seem to be the most petty and quirky live in the ingredient/ABV categories. New ways of doing things – see craft beer and craft distilling – are always shunned by the industry blue bloods. The big boys never want you to know that their way isn’t the only way something should taste. And when it comes to ABV, governments are fine with you getting drunk – because mmm those tasty tax dollars – but they know what too drunk is because of that whole morality thing again.

Reinheitsgebot- Yes you’ve heard of German purity when it comes to beer – especially in Bavaria – but did you know that for the most part the beer you are drinking in Germany doesn’t follow this law anymore? The original law stated that only water, barley, and hops could be used to brew beer. Anything else would not be able to go to market as beer. Since reunification in the early 90’s the law has been rewritten and thus wheat beers and other ales can be “beer” in Germany. Some breweries still brew near the Reinheitsgebot standard, but in reality your beer in Germany will have more than the original 3 ingredients.

Vodka in the EU- More purity from our crazy friends across the pond. EU Law states that traditional vodka can only be made from grains or potatoes and that any other “vodkas” out there that use fruits or veggies have to label that on the bottle and call themselves a distilled spirit as well as vodka. Huh? As long as it goes well with cranberry juice I’m set….unless there are any EU cranberry laws?

US Near Beer- Have you ever heard of “near beer”? If you have, you’ve probably been in certain US states – including that darn Minnesota again. Near beer is beer with 3.2% maximum ABV and is the only beer allowed in convenience/grocery stores in some states. If you’ve had near beer, you’ll know that it really isn’t worth drinking at all. It makes a regular Bud Light seem hearty. Make sure you know these states so you can avoid a gas station beer run. Hopefully with the rise of local breweries in the US, states will lift these rules to help distribution of craft beer and add to the convenience of beer purchasing in general.

Closing Time
Who played that damn song? I want another drink   photo courtesy Thomas's Pics
“One last call for alcohol, so finish your whisky or beer”. Worst song ever! Nobody likes it when the lights come up and big dude at the door starts wrangling people up. You’ve made it this long, no hunger pains or tiredness could stop you from getting another drink. Unfortunately the law in many places will stop you in your quest for drinking until the sun comes up. Lucky for all of us there are places out there that party through every shift. Bring your youthful spirit, you’ll need it.
Prague- Last call in Prague is normally around 2 am. But if you’ve wandered into a bar that has slot machines you can party around the clock. Seeing the sun come up after an all-nighter in a Prague bar is about as magical as it gets – for all-nighters that is.
Miami- Get your drink on, then your dance on, hit the beach and then start all over if you want to because the Downtown Entertainment District is 24/7.
New Orleans- Grab drinks in Frenchman, grab some beignets, then head to Bourbon before once again grabbing beignets. If I really wanted to go on a 72 hour bender, New Orleans would be my spot with the drinks and food. Luckily that dream can be played out because NOLA is 24/7 booze friendly.
Japan (anywhere)- No, not every bar in every city is open all night. But there is no mandated time to play Semisonic on the juke box in Japan. So head to Tokyo, wear your smiling emoji and have a night into morning of sake bombs – because you can.
Las Vegas- Because Vegas.
Belgium- If you’re walking home from the bar in Belgium – good on you for using those feet – and you have to relieve yourself, don’t do that outside. Other places take things more seriously than they may where you are from and the nation of great beer takes this seriously. Good thing you can duck into another bar open 24/7!
DUI
Just don’t do it, seriously. In the US driving under the influence is ridiculously tolerated. If you travel somewhere, drink a bunch and drive it’s on you. No crying when you get tossed in the slammer. We love to enjoy the local libations and then either use our feet, public transit or a cab. There is no reason to endanger folks because you had a good time. NONE!
After the DUI PSA, let's get back to the happy emoji
Obviously these are just a sampling of the unique laws you’ll run across when you are traveling. Don’t let these regulations put a damper on your good time though, the world is your liquor cabinet. Sometimes you just need to jiggle the key a different way to get it open. 
Are there any obscure alcohol laws in your part of the world that we didn’t hit? Let us know.

Steven Grams is a seeker of new knowledge. He lives for travel, for adventure, for a new story. He absorbs everything and never forgets where he has been, who he has met, what he has seen, and how he got there.