Beer in a supermarket, Salt Lake City, Utah, undated. | File photo courtesy of Ben Winslow, Fox1
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – In three states, beer snobs brew their pitchers into a stronger concoction, in the grocery once everything else sold as cheap. Alcohol brands and the changes could calm the industry in Utah and another state, the only remaining markets where such rules remain, in the medium term.
Until October, food and convenience stores in Oklahoma were able to stock beer with an alcohol content of up to just 3.2 percent – much less than even leading light beer brands. Liquor stores were able to sell 8.99 percent stronger beer, but were not allowed to sell cold beer of any strength.
Changes approved by voters now allow the sale of stronger ales in Oklahoma's food and convenience stores. Many of the changes will be passed this year in neighboring Colorado and Kansas.
The beer revolution will leave only two states – Utah and Minnesota – where only 3.2 percent of beer can be sold in grocery and convenience stores. Beer industry observers say how legislators in these states could react to the changes, whether the future of low beer in the US is as flat as a one-week camp. Half of the US 3.2 beer market was in Oklahoma and another 20 percent in Colorado.
"It's a dramatic decline," said Brett Robinson, president of Oklahoma's Beer Distributors, who represents several beer distributors in the state. "In Oklahoma beer is now just beer. There is no definition or classification anymore.
Oklahoma was the first of the nation's five 3.2 beer nations to make the switch, which was a major turnaround for the state in which alcohol was illegal until voters lifted the nationwide ban in 1959-26 years after the national repeal of prohibition.
"It took a long time," said Lisette Barnes, president of the Oklahoma Beer Alliance, a trade association for the beer industry. "It's refreshing, I think people love it, and that was a good thing for both industry and consumers."
As the baby beer market continues to shrink, the breweries must decide whether it will be profitable if they continue to do so – a decision that could cause low-value beer to dry out Utah and Minnesota.
Anheuser-Busch, the world's largest beer producer, said he would meet the needs of consumers in 3.2-percent beer states even as demand falls.
"While we continue to produce 3.2 Percent beer, regulatory and regulatory changes in Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas, which will impact demand for 3.2 percent beer, will impact our nationwide production, "the company said in a December statement.
However, some breweries are already reducing their 3.2 percent beer production. Oklahoma City-based Craft Brewer COOP Ale Works, which is distributed in six states including Oklahoma and Kansas, has closed two of its three beers at 3.2 percent.
"The only reason we produced these two other beers was beer in the grocery and convenience stores," said Sean Mossman, director of sales and marketing at COOP. "Now that we can sell our favorite styles in the grocery stores, we just do not see any need to continue making these beers."
The sale of COOP's flagship beers in grocery stores "was a blessing to us," said Mossman. He said the brewer's business had risen 50 percent over the months since Oklahoma grocers began filling their thicker beers. In April, new regulations come into force in Kansas, where food and convenience stores can sell beer with an alcohol content of 6 percent.
"Overall, we are very happy about the death of 3.2 beer," he said. "The death of 3.2 beer is good for us."
The dwindling stocks of low-point brew are something that government regulators have considered.
"That's the question we've been facing for a few years," said Terry Wood, director of communications at Utah's Alcohol Control Department. "Business decisions can be made that will make it difficult for breweries to stop 3.2 beer production."
Currently, the low beer beer continues to be produced by New Belgium Brewing Co., a craft brewery based in Fort Collins, Colorado. said spokesman Bryan Simpson. Production of 3.2 percent represents only half of 1 percent of the brewery's total production, and the company will buy it exclusively in Utah, Simpson said.
"It makes sense for us to do so because we want to be present there," Simpson said. He said the company's breweries are already prepared for the production of low-point beer and "it's really pointless to step on the brakes."
Former Minnesota MP Jenifer Loon, who passed a law that lifted a long-term ban on alcohol sales on Sunday In 2017, regulatory changes in other states are likely to force lawmakers in Minnesota to consider To admit beer full beer in grocery stores and convenience stores.
There is likely to be a change in the foreseeable future, "Loon said.
Grocers have expressed their support for the sale of strong beer in the past, but any efforts to expand beer sales are likely to face strong opposition she said
"It was very difficult to pull our liquor laws into the 21st century," said Loon.
Written by TIM TALLEY, Associated Press.
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