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State's liquor law is disaster for recipe

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By Nafari Vanaski
Thursday, March 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Let's say you're a foodie. You watch the Food Channel daily and often say to yourself, “I've got to try that!”

You're especially craving that new Bobby Flay recipe — beer can chicken — that won four out of five stars on the Food Channel website.

At the grocery store, you get your ingredients: a whole chicken, garlic, some spices ... except one. The store doesn't sell single cans or bottles of beer. So where can you go?

That's a good question. On the way to the grocery store you passed a beer distributor, which seems like a logical place to buy beer. Turns out it's a great place to buy beer — just not one single can.

Bars, taverns and restaurants sell single containers of beer. Unfortunately, it's illegal to take any beer off the premises.

Pennsylvania's quirky liquor laws make it easier for you to buy an entire case of beer than to buy one. As the Tribune-Review reported this week, Gov. Gifford Pinchot, who signed the state-controlled liquor system into law in 1933, said the system was designed to make the purchase of alcohol “as inconvenient and as expensive as possible.”

Mission accomplished. The fallout, however, is that for 80 years the state potentially encouraged consumers to buy more beer than they need. If the plan was to make alcohol sales more difficult, why force people to buy more of a “bad” thing?

Thank goodness you don't have to buy other cooking ingredients in bulk. Who wants a six-pack of whole chickens?

Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to sell the state store system and get out of the liquor business would change things, if it can overcome opposition.

The governor's plan makes the state's approximately 1,200 beer distributors nervous because it would allow consumers to buy as much or as little beer as they like, in lots more locations, including grocery stores. That, of course, could put distributors out of business.

What the Malt Beverage Distributors Association would prefer is to sell smaller, consumer-friendly packages of beer, which would be more to the liking of customers, said Randy King, the organization's communications director.

“Forcing customers to buy a full case is and has been the number one consumer complaint to distributors for decades,” King said in an email.

When I asked King where in the Keystone State someone could buy a single, eight-ounce can of beer, he was stumped.

“Welcome to Pennsylvania,” he said sarcastically.

Pennsylvania licenses a few supermarkets to sell customers a mix-and-match six-pack of craft beer. Otherwise, good luck to anyone looking for one can of beer.

When it comes to cooking, you can usually find a good substitute for just about any ingredient.

Mountain Dew Can Chicken, anyone?

That's a lot easier to digest than Pennsylvania law on beer and liquor sales.

Nafari Vanaski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Contact her at 412-856-7400 ext. 8669, or on Twitter @NafariTrib.

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