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Friday, March 13, 2009

Beer Drinkers Lose in the Mountain West

Two bits of news from Colorado and Utah today--both setbacks for beer fans. The first is a triumph of liquor-store owners over consumers.
Convenience stores and supermarkets in Colorado won't be allowed to sell full-strength beer following protests by liquor store owners, who said a proposed law change could drive many of them out of business....

Right now, convenience stores and supermarkets are largely limited to selling 3.2 percent beer, but they say sales have tanked since liquor stores started staying open on Sundays under a law passed last year.
In Utah, another bizarre law was protected by the state Senate, who shot down a proposal to allow stronger beer.

The Utah Senate has decided against allowing the sale of full-strength draft beer in bars and restaurants. Currently, draft beer sold in Utah can contain no more than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, or 4 percent by volume.

A bill to lift the cap was approved 58-2 in the House. But on Thursday, the last day of the session, the Senate decided not to debate the measure and to go home early instead.
Ah Utah, what a place. Having lived there for 2 1/2 unpleasant years, I am reminded of why I shot, bullet-like, from its sharia draconianism, the first chance I got. But I pity those not of the "dominant culture" who remain, trying to choke down 4% IPAs.


  1. Jeff:
    You might be surprised to know that the Colorado Brewers Association opposes allowing grocery stores to sell full-strength beer. Craft brewers argue that they have thrived in Colorado because they don't have to fight the big boys for space on a supermarket shelf. In Colorado, full-strength beer is restricted to liquor stores. It is somewhat of an inconvenience for consumers to stop by a liquor store every time you want a decent beer, but the flipside is that most liquor stores carry large craft beer selections. It's not so simple. And it sure as hell isn't anything like Utah. Read more about the issues here:

    And here:

  2. Really?? That's just the weirdest thing I've ever heard. I appreciate being apprised of this--beer culture is always local and idiosyncratic.

    I will now spend hours hypothesizing about what this says about Coloradans.

  3. Colorado's 3.2 beer law is indeed idiosyncratic. It's a legacy of Prohibition. Still, small craft brewers here seem to think it has worked to their advantage. And since liquor stores are now allowed to open on Sundays (a fairly recent change), it has become less of an inconvenience for consumers. The continued prohibition on grocery stores selling full-strength beer can't be reconciled with free market principles since it's essentially a state-guaranteed monopoly for liquor stores, but craft brewers here are fighting hard to keep it the way it is. By the way, bars can of course serve full-strength beer in Colorado, unlike in Utah. I neglected to cite my source material in my first comment. The relevant passages are in the article's bottom half: