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The Alcohol Issue 

I had my first sip of beer at age 4. I remember it vividly: On a hot summer night, outside our trailer at a party with my parents and their friends, I took a nip from my dad's can of Stroh's. I thought I had been poisoned. It was—and still is—the worst thing I had ever tasted. (Manischewitz is a close second, followed by Spam.)

But I do like to drink, although since I'm a lightweight, in moderation.

The Alcohol Issue is less a celebration of booze—not that there's anything wrong with that—but more of a collection of stories and graphics that we think are interesting.

Vernal Coleman reports on Durham's efforts to regulate liquor permits, particularly those held by convenience stores and mini-marts. He and intern Maggie Spini compiled several years' worth of data documenting crimes reported within 500 feet of stores located in some of the city's highest-poverty areas. While it's difficult to verify that these stores' sales of wine and beer cause crime, they aren't curbing it, either. Prostitution, drugs, weapons and robberies are common near these locations, damaging neighborhood residents' quality of life.

We also look at the lighter side of liquor. D.L. Anderson gives us a peek at one of the state's most famous moonshiners, Percy Flowers. Emily Wallace illustrates the tools and sayings of a successful moonshine operation. Billy Ball offers a guide to the state's moonshine laws. Maggie Spini introduces us to two (legal) distilleries that are slated to open in the Triangle, one in Chapel Hill and the other in Durham.

If brown ale rather than white lightning is more your speed, I examine the viability of North Carolina's hops industry by speaking with N.C. State University researchers, local brewers and one of the world's foremost authorities on hops, who happens to live in Wake Forest.

We advise you to drink responsibly. That admonition is not only to free us from litigation, but also to remind you that 1) your liver is a finite resource, and 2) drunks are boring.

Now, a toast to moderation: Cheers!

This article appeared in print with the headline "It's happy hour."

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