Heavy Beer May be Heading to Utah

State lawmaker pushing for 4.8% beer.
February 07, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Grocery and c-store retailers in Utah may soon be able to sell higher alcohol content beer, according to a report in the Deseret News.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson (R-Layton), has said he’ll introduce legislation to raise the alcohol content by weight from 3.2% to 4.8% for beer in stores—a change that has been discussed for several years.

National breweries are phasing out the production of 3.2% beer as the demand for it dries up. Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas have or will change in the next few months. The proposed law would still leave only Utah and Minnesota permitting beer with the lowest alcohol content, Stevenson said.

Stevenson, the Senate's point man on alcohol legislation, said he's not sure how the bill will play with his legislative colleagues. "I’ve lived all the way from being a hero to having my head handed to me in my hand. This is probably one of either," he said.

State lawmakers—most of whom are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints —may prove difficult to convince, since their religion teaches them to refrain from drinking alcohol.

Utah voters are evenly split on this issue, according to a new Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll. Of the 604 registered Utah voters surveyed, 49% want the state to allow higher-alcohol beer in stores, 45% oppose such a move and 6% are undecided. The overall statewide poll, conducted Jan. 15-24, 2018, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, making the results a statistical dead heat.

Only 1.8% of all beer brewed in the United States is 3.2%. Until Oct. 1, 2018, when Oklahoma retailers were finally able to sell beer with up to 8.99% alcohol content, Oklahoma consumed nearly 60% of all 3.2% beer, followed by Utah at 29%. Utah residents make up less than .05% of U.S. beer drinkers.

As state laws change, national brewers must decide whether to continue producing what would be a specialty item for a declining market. Some products from major brewers, including Coors and Budweiser, are already disappearing from Utah shelves.