Utah may face beer shortage as alcohol content change approaches

SALT LAKE CITY — Beer consumers could see some of their favorite brands run out at their local grocery store in the next several weeks.

This would come as retailers, wholesalers and breweries gear up for when Utah law allows a higher alcohol content in its beers at local grocery stores and convenience stores. As of Nov. 1, consumers will be able to purchase beer at grocery stores and convenience stores that contain 4 percent alcohol by weight instead of the current 3.2 limit.

Four percent alcohol by weight is also referred to as 5 percent alcohol by volume.

Distributors say we’re not going to be a dry state by any means, but some of the less popular brands may go out of stock as they try to predict consumer demand.

“We’re really excited about it. It’s a big change for Utah,” General Distributing President Andy Zweber said. “We’ll be able to get the national versions — the regular production line version of a lot of the brands they distribute — and they won’t have to make a special batch for Utah, so it will make it a lot simpler.”

Fox 13 caught up with some local consumers at a Smith’s grocery store in Salt Lake City, and they don’t think the temporary shortage will be too much of an inconvenience — they’re ready for the change.

“It’s about time,” Addison Mitchell said. “Honestly, I think it’ll bring better beers into the state from out of state... I know a lot of companies stay away from Utah because of the particulars."

“I think it’s great," Caleb Esmay told Fox 13 Monday. "I mean, nationwide beer is 4.0 nationwide per weight, so it makes sense.”

“There will be temporary out-of-stocks. It’s kind of inevitable. We’ll do our best to keep our retailers in stock as much as possible, but with a change this big, with this many brands and packages, logistical challenges, there’s gonna’ be some temporary out of stocks," Zweber explained. "But, if we didn’t make the law change, there’d be permanent out-of-stocks.”

He says he’s grateful to legislators for recognizing the issue and making the change, and hopes in their special session next week they’ll vote to give them additional time to deliver the new product into stores. He says they’ve had the benefit of seeing how Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado have handled this transition as they made the change earlier this year.

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