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Utah's Weak Beer Could Be On Its Way Out

Photo of beer in store.
Courtesy Taylor Smith
Beers from some major brewers have already disappeared of the shelves in Utah since the state became the last in the country with a 3.2 percent alcohol by weight limit in grocery and convenience stores.

It might soon be harder to find your favorite can of beer at the grocery store, but a Utah lawmaker is working to allow stronger brews to be sold in store by changing the legal definition of beer.

Utah is now the last state in the country that limits beer sold in grocery and convenience stores to 3.2 percent alcohol by weight (ABW). In recent years, several other states including Colorado and Kansas have legalized beer at 5 percent ABW in stores.

Photo of beer tanks.
Credit Courtesy Taylor Smith
The increased alcohol percentage would give brewers the chance to sell higher strength beer both in stores and on tap.

As that shift has played out over the past few years, manufacturers have stopped brewing the weak stuff.

Some products, including six-pack cans of Bud Lite and some seasonal Redd’s Apple Ale products, have already been discontinued.

To prevent even more products from disappearing from shelves, Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, is proposing Utah change its legal definition of beer to brews with 4.8 percent ABW, or 6 percent alcohol by volume.

He said that would provide beer drinkers more choice of products, both in stores and on tap.

“Will it fill the gap? No, but it’ll fill probably 90 percent of the gap,” Stevenson said Friday.

Not all beer products will need to have 4.8 percent alcohol, either. Stevenson said some products, particularly light beers, will likely stay lower that that.

“Light beers, literally low-calorie beers, will probably not increase in alcohol content a lot because if you increase the content, you increase the calories.”

Stevenson said the new limit would still keep Utah’s beer is among the weakest in the country — just not as weak as it is now.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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