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Utah Stores Dump 3.2 Beer, More Variety Now On Shelves

Utah-Bar-Beer Bar-goers will still be able to get 5% draft beer under Utah liquor laws. (Wasatch Brewery/Facebook)

Skiers and snowboarders who come to Utah for its famous powder snow have long struggled with the serpentine laws for consumption of alcohol. But the laws are changing, slowly but at a regular clip.

Now, when coming to Utah to hit the slopes, skiers and riders will be able to purchase higher-strength beer at retail outlets – as opposed to searching out a state liquor store to buy beer higher than 4% alcohol by weight.

This year, the Utah State Legislature sounded the death knell for the sale of lower-alcohol brews at grocery stores and convenience stores. A new law makes it so retailers no longer have to sell only so-called 3.2 beer – about 4% of alcohol by weight – and instead opened up the market for higher-alcohol beer at 5%.

Right away, winter visitors to the Beehive state who want to drink an apres-ski beer in their condo or hotel room will now find a much wider variety of beers on the shelves of the stores in and around Salt Lake City, Ogden, Park City and other locales. That's because most brewers, especially craft brewers, didn't produce 3.2 beer – keeping their labels off the retail shelves and restricted to bars and restaurants. The retail space is expected to be filled with high-point beers that are sought by out-of-state visitors.

Bars, restaurants and pubs will continue to be able to serve high-point beers and other alcoholic libations.

The state runs liquor stores for hard liquor, beer and wine. They will no longer stock 3.2 beer and are expected to refill stock with high-point beers – both macro- and micro-brews. But state liquor stores remain the only outlets for packaged beer above 5%, hard liquor, wines.

"Ski Utah is very excited to see this change," said SkiUtah's Nathan Rafferty. "There are so many local breweries, bars, and resorts benefitting from the updated ABV limit, and I know our visitors will be very happy to see more variety in our bars and groceries."

Despite its history of some of the most restrictive liquor laws in the nation, Utah has been loosening them up because of, as many contend, the international attention they got during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Gone the way of the dodo is the “Zion Curtain” that separated bartenders from customers; the “private club membership” required for entry into a bar; and, the prohibition of drinking at a restaurant without ordering food.







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