Utah's 3.2 beer law could be in for a change

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - Early discussions are underway about a possible change to Utah's law which requires beer told at stores to be no more than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight (ABW). After several states recently changed similar laws some worry big brewers will stop making it.

Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas recently voted to repeal their laws which will go into effect in the next one to two years. Utah and Minnesota will be the only states with those laws still on the books.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, (R-Layton), has dealt with a lot of alcohol legislation in the past and said it's not easy to tackle. In this case he said because there are so many different groups involved when it comes to beer.

"There are a lot of people involved in this and I would like to meet with all of them to make sure we have something structured before we open a bill file," said Sen. Stevenson.

The senator said the good news is they have time before major brewers would make a decision, so they can talk with all the local stake holders.

The options being discussed include raising ABW to four to five percent, getting rid of the limit all together, or not changing it and seeing what brewers do.

Steve Mills is the CEO of Uinta Brewing Company in Salt Lake City, and said he's glad to see the discussion happening. He's in favor of getting rid of ABW limits. Although it would bring in other beers to compete with local brands Mills said he welcomes it.

"If we lift the ABV restriction entirely then you have an open market and may the best beer win," said Mills.

Mills said only raising ABV a small amount would end up hurting local breweries. He notes major brewers have more beer in that range and could flood the market. While many local breweries have beers more than five percent.

The Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control said they don't have any take one way or the other because they take direction from the legislature. Communications Director Terry Wood said they are keeping a close eye on the developments along with everyone else.

"When decisions are made whether the major manufactures are going to continue with 3.2 beer then we will have to figure what we're going to do," said Wood "but we haven't crossed that bridge yet."

Sen. Stevenson said there likely won't be any legislation during the next session. Although something could come down the line if something major happens with availability of 3.2 beer.

 


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