Utah Prepares To Dump 3.2% Beer For Heavier Brews
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Grocery and liquor stores across Utah are preparing to dump 3.2% beer overnight as a new law takes place Nov. 1, allowing stories to sell heavier beers.
In the final hours leading up to the change Thursday, customers saw the last of 3.2% alcohol by weight (ABW) beer on store shelves.
“Well it’s been time for a long, long time,” said Liberty Heights Fresh owner Steven Rosenberg.
On Friday morning, Rosenberg, along with grocery stores, convenience stores and taverns, will be able to sell heavier brews with 4% ABW, commonly known as 5% alcohol by volume (ABV) beer.
Terry Wood, director of communications with the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said Utah was one of the last to hold the 3.2% ABW standard.
“The legislature changed that because we were the last state in the nation, other than Minnesota, to have 3.2 beer,” Wood said. “The major breweries didn’t want to make it any more just for us.”
Wood said the change in law will allow for a wider selection to be sold at grocery stores.
“Most of the major brewers like Budweiser, Coors, Michelob, etc. Their beers are brewed at somewhere like 3.4, 3.6% they just didn’t want to have to hold to that 3.2% standard. So those brews will be in the grocery and convenience stores tomorrow morning,” Wood said.
Budweiser’s famous Clydesdale horses were in Salt Lake City Wednesday to hold a “funeral” for the lighter brews ahead of Friday’s change.
Customers like Nick Hummel said they are looking forward to the new options the change will bring to the Beehive State.
“The variety of options, like I’ve heard there’s going to be a lot more national brands that are coming in and beers from other states that aren’t restricted,” Hummel said.
“The only reason the grocery store shelves are empty on Halloween is they didn’t really stock up on the 3.2 beer knowing that it’s going to go away,” Wood said. “Tomorrow these shelves will probably be filled with something, we’ll be getting in stronger beers over the next couple of weeks.”
Several stores were offering steep discounts to help clear their shelves.
State-owned liquor stores are required by law to dispose of the 3.2% ABW beer once the change goes into effect.
“We reduced the prices on much of it because we didn’t have to have any left on our shelves by closing time tonight otherwise by law we would have to dispose of it in a proper matter,” Wood said. “Depending on the amount, we take it to the dump and that’s not something we really want to do.”
And while the countdown to Friday continued, customers were getting a good deal.
“I mean it’s kind of hard to find beer on sale here, so why not?” Hummel said.
The new law also includes a $0.30 tax increase on a 31-gallon barrel of beer, which will raise each barrel’s price from $12.80 to $13.10. The Utah State Tax Commission estimated the increase will bring in $350,000 a year.
Those funds will be used for alcohol enforcement and treatment beginning next July.
However, there are some concerned about the move to heavier brews. Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints expressed opposition to parts of the new legislation but were in favor of the creation of the Beer Availability Workgroup that will examine the impact of heavier brews on drunk driving, binge and underage drinking.
Utah also currently has the nation’s strictest DUI laws, with a legal blood alcohol limit of 0.05.
KSL TV’s Matt Hugie contributed to this report.
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