Senate Bill 132 would allow higher alcohol content beers to be sold in grocery and convenience stores.

By Bridget Hallinan
March 18, 2019
John Peabody/Getty Images

We’ve been seeing the back and forth for a while—but as of last week, it looks like Utah’s finally going to see stronger beer on grocery store shelves with the passage of Senate Bill 132. If you’re not familiar with the bill, it addresses the state’s “3.2 beer” law, which restricts the sale of beer with an alcohol by weight (ABW) volume of over 3.2 (equivalent to around 4 percent alcohol by volume or ABV). While beer over 3.2 ABW can currently be sold and produced in Utah, it requires a special license, and in the retail context, has to be sold in liquor stores—only 3.2 beer (or less) can be sold in grocery and convenience stores. However, the new law would up the limit to 4.0 ABW (5 percent ABV) making it much easier for Utah residents to grab a stronger six-pack, reports Utah Public Radio.

The bill was introduced due to the declining production of 3.2 beer—since there are few states left in the country with similar laws, major producers like Anheuser-Busch have said they’re cutting back on making the low-alcohol beer. Colorado’s 3.2 restrictions phased out in January, and Kansas is scheduled to up its ABW limit in April, so with Utah also primed to ax the 3.2 law, only Minnesota will remain. The senator behind the bill, Jerry Stevenson, initially proposed to up the ABW limit to 4.8; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposed that increased limit according to the Salt Lake Tribune. But Stevenson said that despite the increase, nearly 90 perfect of the labels currently in stores will remain so if you still want to buy low-alcohol beer, it’ll be there.

The new law, if approved, would go into effect on November 1; it’s already passed the Utah house and the senate, and as of March 15, still needs a signature from Governor Gary Herbert, per the Salt Lake Tribune. Beer that still has a higher ABW than 4 or ABV of 5 will continue to be sold at liquor stores—other states that restrict alcohol sold at grocery and convenience stores (there are 18 total) have a much higher limit of 12.4 ABV, on average—but still, it’s yet another step Utah has taken to relax its strict liquor laws. In July 2017, the state also got rid of the “Zion curtain,” which required restaurants to conceal mi and preparing drinks behind a physical barrier. To learn more, and check out all the craft breweries and distilleries to visit in Salt Lake City, read the full story here.

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