Understanding the Alcohol history of Tennessee can help you understand today’s laws and regulations. Being the buckle of the Bible Belt, Tennessee has an interesting history with alcohol. It all started in 1838 when Tennessee was the very first state to pass a law of prohibition against alcohol. This law said that you could not sell alcohol, specifically hard liquor, in taverns or in stores as a result of a movement against the negative effects of drinking. The law was a misdemeanor, which wasn’t quite enough to stop the flow of alcohol through the state.
Jack Daniels Distillery
One of the most important landmarks in TN is the Jack Daniels Distillery located in Lynchburg. It was started in 1866 by Jaster “Jack” Newton Daniel. It is the oldest distillery in the US and receives thousands of tourists to the site each year. However, it’s a dry county there so don’t expect to get liquored up on the tour. You can, however, receive several samples at the distillery under the guise of “educational purposes.” This is important research, after all.
Just because nationwide prohibition ended in 1933, didn’t mean TN was going to immediately jump on the bandwagon. Changes to drinking laws have been slow, with some counties choosing to remain dry or refusing to serve certain drinks, like liquor.
In 1984, along with several other states in the country, TN raised the drinking age to 21 from 19. This was because the country passed The National Drinking Age Act. States that didn’t comply would have 10% of their federal highway budget removed.
Now there is a Tennessee Whiskey Trail, just a year old in June of 2018, that includes 25 distilleries across the state. Here’s where you can learn the most about local TN whiskey and all of the history and culture surrounding it’s production.
Alcohol in Grocery Stores
It used to be more difficult to purchase alcohol in TN, but with recent changes in grocery store allowances, you can now buy win and beers up to 10% ABV. But, you can’t buy liquor when you are getting your chips, dip, and hamburgers, and you can’t buy high-gravity beers. And forget buying anything on Sunday mornings. You have to wait until noon, and then you can just buy beer. So if you have plans for a Sunday BBQ, be sure to stock up and prepare for the difficulties of buying alcohol in TN on Sundays.