Record editorial: Full-strength beer in grocery stores would be something to drink to
Presidents Day marks the last major tourist weekend of the ski season. Folks from all over the country are in Park City to take advantage of the Monday holiday and the bountiful snow Mother Nature has granted us.
For most visitors, though, the ideal Park City weekend extends off the slopes. But they could be in for disappointment if they make an evening run to a grocery store for a six-pack of beer. They’ll discover what every Parkite knows: The only place to purchase full-strength brews is a state-operated liquor store.
But that might not be the case for much longer.
Following the lead of lawmakers in a handful of other states, the Utah Legislature is considering a bill that would allow grocery and convenience stores to sell beer with an alcohol content of up to 4.8 percent by weight (or roughly 6 percent by volume).
Cheers to that. The proposal represents a marked improvement over the 3.2 percent limit currently in place and is something beer drinkers in Utah have spent years thirsting for. Wine, liquor and beers above 4.8 percent would still be relegated to liquor stores, but being able to pick up a full-strength six pack while getting gas or grocery shopping — like patrons can in nearly every other state — would relieve a significant pain point for tourists and Parkites alike.
It would also curb a disturbing trend beer drinkers have likely noticed in recent months. Major beer suppliers have begun pulling product off Utah shelves because most of the other states that imposed a 3.2 percent limit have changed their laws. For many of the largest breweries, that’s diminished the financial incentive for producing low-strength beer. Expect the selection of domestic beer to continue to thin if lawmakers don’t take action.
As with any legislation involving Utah’s liquor laws, the proposal isn’t perfect. The state’s craft brewing industry contends the bill would benefit domestic breweries at the expense of local ones. A better solution, the argument goes, would be raising the alcohol content limit even further, leveling the playing field by allowing small breweries to sell their strongest beers alongside domestic brews.
It’s a fair point. But it’s difficult to imagine the Utah Legislature moving any time soon to permit beer with an alcohol content much higher than 4.8 percent to grace the shelves of grocery stores.
So for now, beer drinkers will happily take what they can get. And hopefully at the end of the legislative session, they’ll have something to celebrate — a cold, full-strength beer from their local market in hand.