Lee Winnige: Birmingham Beer Pioneer

Birmingham, Ala. (July 25, 2014) – Lee Winnige knows his ales from his lagers and his pilsners from his stouts. His passion for craft beers inspired him to help cofound “Free the Hops” (FTH) a highly successful nonprofit organization whose mission is to “help bring the highest quality beers in the world to Alabama.” Since its incorporation nearly ten years ago, Free the Hops has played a critical role in creating the conditions that have led to Alabama becoming the fastest-growing producer of craft beers in the United States. Lee and his group identified state regulations that prevented or discouraged microbreweries from distributing beer in Alabama and worked with lawmakers and other interested parties to pass the “Gourmet Beer Bill” in 2007, which raised the legal alcohol limit for beer from 6% to 13.9%. In 2011 they worked to pass the “Gourmet Bottle Bill,” which raised the container size limit from 16oz to 25.4oz. The “Brewery Modernization Act” repealed many Prohibition-era restrictions and greatly improved the economic viability of microbreweries. The efforts of Free the Hops—and similar organizations, businesses, and individuals— can be seen in increased employment, neighborhood revitalization, and economic growth in Birmingham and throughout the state of Alabama.

Lee’s ability to bring together groups of people with different perspectives as he did with FTH, has served him well with CMH, where he focuses on retail and institutional projects. Lee deals daily with complicated budgetary and regulatory issues, giving him an opportunity to practice his creative problem-solving skills and attention to detail.

Lee encourages beer lovers to keep an eye out for the FTH-sponsored Fall FestivAle, a Birmingham beer-tasting event that will take place sometime in November.

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