Utah’s New Beer Law Goes into Effect Nov. 1

The alcohol level for beer sold in retail outlets increases from 4% to 5% ABV.

October 28, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY—Any beer that remains on liquor store shelves at midnight on October 31 and is 5% alcohol by volume or less will be poured down the drain, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) says is must “destroy” the unsold beer before November 1 when a new law takes effect that will change the rules on where 5% ABV beer is sold.

In the past, Utah law has barred grocery and convenience stores from selling beer higher than 4% ABV (or 3.2% by weight). Only state-owned liquor stores could sell beer with a higher alcohol content. The new law allows retail outlets to start selling beer that is 5% ABV. As a result, liquor stores, which are not allowed to sell beer with the same ABV as retail stores, will have to dispose of their stock of beer that falls between 4% and 5% ABV. Higher-alcohol brews will continue to be sold in state-owned liquor stores.

The question of disposal poses a problem though. Beer distributors cannot legally take back products and give retailers credit. So, the DABC is currently offering discounted rates on the beer in an attempt to get beers between 4% to 5% off the shelves as quickly as possible.

Pacifico Lager, Stella Artois, Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Newcastle Brown Ale are among the top-selling beers that will move into convenience stores and grocery stores.

Jim Olsen, president of the Utah Beer Wholesalers Association, said that the effects will be felt in grocery and convenience stores, as well. “There will be some pain and suffering for the next couple of weeks as we go through this transition,” he said. “But, long term, the beer consumer should be pleased.”

Even after the change, Utah will still have one of the strictest alcohol sales limits in the country.