Summer is here! A tiny bit of an understatement when the air is so heavy with humidity you need gills to stay outside for more than a few minutes. Well, gills or a seasonal beer from North Carolina’s oldest brewery! The Bitter Bee has arrived in cans, bottles, and kegs. This honeyed IPA balances the bitter citrus hop flavors against the sweet floral honey with a truly refreshing result. Perfect for cooling down in this steamy weather!

The Bitter Bee is one of our most anticipated seasonals, but I most confess that I was fervently opposed to making it. Adding honey violates the Reinheitsgebot and I’m quite attached to that antique guideline. However, I gave in to the will of the people and a promise from the brewers that it would be delicious. Not surprisingly they were right. Our Reinheitsgebot rebel is full of flavor and creativity, which in my opinion is crucial to a good beer. But don’t panic- we’re not abandoning our traditional styles for funky newcomers. Like our cowbells from the Manteo restaurant proudly standing alongside our vibrant new cans, we can embrace the future and the past.

In fact many of those cowbells have been with us for decades and come from a small shop in Uli’s hometown in Bavaria. They are beautiful pieces of craftsmanship that evoke images of cattle grazing on the Alps above picturesque houses with carved wooden eaves and blossoming flowerboxes. However to anyone familiar with the Weeping Radish in Manteo those musical clangs mean two things; either it’s time to sing Happy Birthday or it’s 12 o’clock on Sunday and it’s time to pour beer!

For over 30 years it has been illegal for a store to sell or even serve a beer before noon on Sundays, but last month the State of North Carolina made some changes. The new legislation gave each county the authority to decide whether or not to sell alcohol at 10:00 AM on Sundays. A unanimous vote was required to make the change official, but, as reported here on the Outer Banks Voice, there was a lone dissenter on the Currituck County Board of Commissioners. Full disclosure, I was not able to attend the public comment session, but from the reports on the Voice and my conversations with attendees it appears the commissioner rejected the bill citing moral objections. This is particularly frustrating for many reasons, not least of which is that we are living in the twenty first century. Alcohol has been demonized in America for centuries, while at the same time consumption has steadily increased. The government tried to legally impose morals on people’s habits in the 1920s and we saw how successful that was – oh, Prohibition!

It is not my intention to mock anyone’s religious beliefs or ridicule anyone’s personal choice to abstain from alcohol, and I fully respect and support those individuals’ decisions. That being said, this recent decision casts an offensive slight on beer (and wine and liquor) that I cannot let slide.  A gauntlet has been thrown and I’d like to answer the challenge on behalf of Beer. Instead of treating it as a criminal we should all be grateful to this malty beverage for defending the people of Earth for millennia. Thank you Beer for saving the lives of thousands of people during the dawn of human history. For centuries water was too impure to drink and brought disease and death to communities around the world. But thanks to you, men, women, and children lived free of dysentery and gained much needed nutritional calories from your grains. You supported the monks of Europe during the holy fasting seasons and provided sustenance for monks and nuns alike. Alewives were respected members of a society that gave little approval to women, so thank you Beer for being a proud feminist!

North Carolina owes quite a lot to Beer, over $1.2 billion dollars in 2016 according to the Brewers Association. There are over 200 breweries operating in North Carolina and more are opening every month that generate approximately $300 million in annual wages and 10,000 jobs, per the NC Brewer’s Guild. Good work Beer! It’s nice to know that you care about employers and their employees. For these reasons and many more I’d like to say a heartfelt “Thank You!” to Beer. You’ve done so much for us that, even though you make us a little pudgy, act goofy, or think we can dance when we really really can’t, we love you anyway.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” I think Sunday morning is a perfect time to revel in God’s love and buy some beer on your way home as a souvenir from an Outer Banks vacation or have a cold pint with friends and family. You can have Bitter Bee but make mine a Black Radish!