Big brewers could leave Utah high and dry

Big brewers could leave Utah high and dry (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) - With the legislative session around the corner, some lawmakers say we need to look over some of our liquor laws to prevent big brewing companies from leaving the state.

“More and more states are moving away from 3.2 beer because of the adult population demanding differences,” said Gene Davis, Utah State Senate Minority Leader. “Anytime a product pulls out of the marketplace leaves the market, it’s a challenge. And It’s costly.”

Right now, brewers like Budweiser’s Anheuser Busch manufacture beer with an alcohol content of 3.2% to be sold in grocery stores and convenience stores in Utah and Minnesota. Over the last year, Oklahoma, Colorado, ad Kansas moved away from similar laws and now sell production line beer in markets.

“I hope we address the problem before we lose a purveyor in the market,” said Davis, who supported allowing production line-level alcohol content beers in markets and stores. “If they were to withdraw from the market, it would be costly to the citizens of Utah.”

Terry Wood of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said there would be added stress to the state-run liquor stores if they were forced to pick up the slack and stock higher alcohol level beers.

“It’s going to be a problem for us if we have to put all the beer that’s currently in grocery stores and convenience stores all across the state in our state liquor stores,” he said. “It’s going to be up to the legislature to decide what to do with this entire 3.2 beer issue. Whether they will allow stronger, heavier beer in the convenience or grocery stores or they’ll make us put everything in our state liquor stores!”

Wood said refrigeration is also an issue.

“The impact on some of the businesses that currently sell 3.2 beer would probably be great! The grocery stores, convenience stores, some of them have special coolers or caves and they’ve spent a lot of money on that,” said Wood.

Davis agreed the cost of refrigeration could be a big one, not just in money but also in quality.

“The one thing we don’t have in our liquor stores that we’d have to provide is cold beer,” he said. “The ales and other stouts that are provided at the liquor stores, they’re not refrigerated.”

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