It’s a new era for beer drinkers in Utah. Recent legislation now allows for beer containing up to 5 % alcohol by volume (ABV) to be sold at grocery and convenience stores in the state, as well as on draft at bars and restaurants.
For 86 years—since Prohibition—Utah law had required that beer above 4% ABV (or 3.2% alcohol by weight) be sold in state-run liquor stores. That changed on Nov. 1 when a new law went into effect allowing retail locations to sell beer containing up to 5% ABV.
Utah breweries went to work reformulating most, if not all, their 4% beers. And many took the opportunity to develop brand new Utah 5% beers, knowing that they could now be sold cold directly to thirsty beer drinkers.
The new limits mean certain beers can better conform to internationally recognized style guidelines. Bohemian Brewery’s flagship 1842 Czech Pilsner, for instance, is now 4.8% ABV. Stylistically, the bump in alcohol “allows it to stand alongside the great Czech Pilsners of the world,” says Brian Ericksen, Bohemian’s head brewer.
Looking ahead to 2020, Bohemian’s seasonal beers will benefit from the new law as well. Look for Oktoberfest (5%), Kölsch (4.6%), and BrewSki Mountain Lager (4.2%) to be available on draft and on store shelves.
Chad Hopkins is ratcheting up most of his draft offerings to hit 5% ABV. As Nov. 1 drew closer, he quit brewing 4% beers and filled his tanks with the stronger stuff.
“I already have six beers lined up for the changeover,” he says. “Sugar House Pilsner, Patchwork Pale, Brut, Watermelon Jalapeno Wheat, Solstice Lager and Winter Ale. I’ll have a few stouts coming up soon after that.”
Level Crossing Brewing Co. reformulated all its draft beers (except the You-Tah Uncommon) to clock in at or near 5% ABV. The South Salt Lake brewery recently developed two new beers with the law change in mind.
Look Up! Amber Ale, a beefed-up version of its original amber, and In the Pines Hazy Pale Ale are new 5% beers available in select Harmons grocery stores.
RoHa ramped up its current draft beers to 5% and introduced a new one on Nov. 1. The Grapefruit Back Porch Pale Ale originally hit tap lines at 4%. Now, the 5% version is available on draft and in 12-ounce cans.
“It’s a citrus twist on our classic West Coast-style Pale Ale,” says Rob Phillips, co-owner of RoHa. “It’s the first beer of several that we are releasing as part of our seasonal program.”
RoHa also is eyeing two more seasonal 5% beers before the end of the year: Project Porter and Americano, a coffee-infused American Pale Ale.
The folks at Uinta introduced Hazy Nosh, a fruity and juicy IPA, to commemorate the law change.
“We’re also moving Golden Ale (already a 5% beer) into traditional retail channels and re-introducing Bristlecone Brown Ale back into our year-round lineup,” says Jeremy Ragonese, president of Uinta Brewing. U
Here are a few additional new 5% ABV beers hitting the market:
· 2 Row Brewing: Lollygaggin’ Farmhouse Ale and Separation New England-style IPA
· Fisher Brewing: Should’ve Been 6, a West Coast-style pale ale
· Kiitos Brewing: Barrel-aged Coconut Stout, Wild Path Amber Ale (a collaboration with REI), and Rimando Pale Ale on draft
· Proper Brewing: Ahern Nut Brown Ale and Salted Caramel Porter
· Shades Brewing: The brewery is moving to cans and releasing a new line of lower-calorie beers called “Fit,” which will likely fall below the 5% ABV mark
· Squatters Craft Beer: Brilliant Bier Pilsner
· Talisman Brewing: The Ogden-based brewery plans to introduce a new hazy IPA after the first of the year
· Wasatch Brewery: Pickup Lime Sour Ale (4.8%) and Island Hop Tropical IPA
Tim Haran is founder of Utah Beer News. The website and accompanying podcast are dedicated to telling stories important to the Utah craft beer community.
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