The state Senate gave final passage Thursday to a bill that would raise the alcohol limit of grocery and convenience store beer from 3.2% to 4%—with a few added conditions.
Senate Bill 132 originally would have raised the allowed alcohol content of beer sold outside of state-run liquor stores to 4.8% alcohol by weight. The bill’s sponsor, Layton Republican Sen. Jerry Stevenson, ran the bill to continue to provide access to beers at grocery and convenience stores, as national breweries phase out 3.2 beer due to lack of demand.
After passing the Senate, the original bill took on a new form in the House Health and Human Services Committee, where it was substituted with language that created a task force to study how having higher-point beer in grocery stores would impact public health and whether current law affected availability. On Wednesday, though, Stevenson came to a compromise with concerned legislators, raising the limit to 4% and creating a “beer availability work group” that’s staffed by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The bill also increases the tax on beer barrels, to keep DABC revenue up to fund school lunch programs.
Stevenson says the 4% limit will keep about 90% of national beers in grocery stores.
Utah’s brewing community has been divided on the issue. The official stance of the Utah Brewers Guild has been to oppose the bill based on what it views as setting an arbitrary limit at 4.8%. Some individual breweries testified, though, that they view any extension of the alcohol content limit as progress.
If approved by Gov. Gary Herbert, the law would go into effect Nov. 1, 2019.