ST. GEORGE — With the death of 3.2 beer at hand, shelves and beer caves in grocery and convenience stores throughout Utah have begun to empty in preparation for the heavier brews they’ll be allowed to sell starting Friday.
In Salt Lake City Wednesday, the lighter beer’s demise was celebrated by major brewer Budweiser as its iconic Clydesdales were a part of a mock funeral procession themed for the Halloween season, with costumed pallbearers dressed as ghosts, skeletons and the grim reaper.
“The Clydesdales triumphantly visited local bars where bar patrons crushed their 3.2 beer cans,” reads a press release about the event. “Budweiser even handed out playful print ‘obituaries’ to bar patrons, in remembrance of 3.2 beer.”
Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature voted to drop 3.2% beer and allow for the sale of beer containing 4% alcohol by weight (5% by volume). This was in response to major brewers phasing out 3.2 beer due to an ever-shrinking market. Big retailers like Walmart and Maverik also pushed for the change. The only state maintaining the 3.2 limit as of Friday will be Minnesota.
This is the first major change for alcohol in Utah since Prohibition ended 86 years ago.
The new law allowing higher brews changes the selection of beer that can be sold in grocery stores and state-run liquor stores.
With some brands moving to private stores, Utah rules mean state-owned outlets may have to dump any 3.2% beer that isn’t sold by midnight Thursday. Customers have been snapping up those beers at bargain prices or gazing at empty shelves ready for the new stock.
With the once liquor store-exclusive brews coming to private stores, the selection of beer will increase. Among the beer brands now allowed for sale are Pacifico, Newcastle Brown Ale, Sam Adam’s Boston Lager, Guinness Pub Draft and Dogfish Head.
The extra competition from convenience stores doesn’t worry Dave Moody, one of the owners of Silver Reef Brewing Co. in St. George.
“The competition will always be there,” Moody said jovially as he spoke with St. George News.
While there will be more beer in grocery stores, Moody said people are great when it comes to supporting local beers.
“People are always about the local Utah beers,” he said.
As for his thoughts on the state’s jump to 4% beer, Moody laughed, saying it’s both fantastic and more convenient for his brewery.
“Now we don’t have to separate our beer between Utah and Nevada,” he said.
In addition to allowing higher content beers on grocery store shelves, legislators also slapped a 30 cent tax increase on every 31-gallon beer barrel, hiking the price from $12.80 to $13.10.
The added tax is expected to generate $350,000 annually, which will go to the Alcoholic Beverage Enforcement and Treatment Restricted Account starting July 1, 2020, according to the Utah State Tax Commission.
Utah already has high taxes on alcohol, Moody said, adding that he doesn’t believe the 30-cent increase would be much of an issue. Any increased cost passed on to the consumer would likely be just over a single cent, he said.
“We may just eat that loss in the grocery store,” Moody said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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