Bill introduced to get rid of 3.2 beer in Utah

Posted at 12:49 PM, Feb 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-01 22:38:18-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill is being introduced on Utah's Capitol Hill to eliminate 3.2 beer in Utah.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, told FOX 13 in an interview Friday morning the bill would raise the alcohol content from 3.2% to 4.8% by weight (and from 4% to 6% by volume). It's an industry standard that would allow for major beer distributors to keep providing brands to grocery and convenience stores.

"We’ll still be the second lowest across the country offered in convenience stores," he said.

FOX 13 first reported in 2017 that Utah faced disappearing beer products from store shelves as more states stopped selling 3.2 beer. Oklahoma, the nation's largest consumer of the weaker brews, abandoned it. So have Kansas and Colorado, leaving Utah one of the lone holdouts. Because Utah isn't a heavy drinking state, it amounted to less than a half a percent of all beer drinkers in America.

Anheuser-Busch warned the state it was going to see a drop off in product. Since then, Walmart has pressured the Utah State Legislature to allow heavier brews in grocery and convenience stores as product started dropping off store shelves.

"We think it’s a reasonable change that will allow grocery stores and convenience stores to be able to return customer choice to the shelves and restore what we’ve lost as states phase out 3.2 beer," said Kate Bradshaw of the Responsible Beer Choice Coalition, a lobbying group pushing the legislature to change the beer law in Utah.

The group has kept tabs on disappearing 3.2 product nationwide and provided FOX 13 with a list of brands being phased out that would impact Utah:

The Utah Brewer's Guild, however, said it believed the bill did not go far enough and favored "mega-brewers" over local ones.

"The proposed 4.8 ABW for grocery store beer is an arbitrary limit. If passed, it would make Utah only one of two states with that cap," said the Guild's executive director Nicole Dicou. "The local craft brewers of the Utah Brewers Guild look forward to working with the bill sponsor to address our concerns."

Sen. Stevenson told FOX 13 he anticipated a battle in both the House and Senate with passing his bill.

"Alcohol is a battle. It will be a problem getting this across both houses, I think," he said.

But Sen. Stevenson said he did not believe his bill would create an increase in DUIs or other public safety problems.

"I’m not sure it causes an increase in consumption, it definitely does cause an increase in choice," he said.

Bradshaw said her group was going to try to persuade lawmakers to vote for the bill.

"Alcohol issues are always a little bit of a challenge, there are religious history, cultural history and public safety impacts and those are important," she said. "We don’t want to diminish those are important things that need to be taken into account. That’s why we’ve structured it the way we have with a modest change."