In November 2016, Oklahoma voters will likely get the opportunity to change the 3.2 beer law in their state, which could affect the other four states with 3.2 beer laws – Utah, Colorado, Kansas and Minnesota.
“3.2 beer,” aka low-point beer, is 3.2% alcohol by weight (ABW), which is equal to about 4% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Oklahomans are the largest consumers of 3.2 beer. According to an Oklahoma News9 article, 95% of all beers sold to Oklahoma consumers are 3.2 / low-point beers. So if 3.2 beer were eliminated in Oklahoma, it would likely create a ripple effect on the other four states. To add, Kansas is also moving forward on legislation to abolish its 3.2 beer laws.
Many of the major industrial brands plus some craft beer brands make special 3.2 versions of their beers solely for the 3.2 states. For example, in Utah, Squatters makes two versions of its Off Duty IPA – a bottled version that’s 6.5% ABV (to be sold in bars and government-run liquor stores) and a bottled/draft version that’s 4% ABV (to be sold on draft, or in bottles at grocery stores). Wasatch’s Polygamy Porter also comes in two versions, a thin and watery 4% version and a delicious 6% version. Budweiser, among many other macro brands, is dumbed down from its normal 5% ABV to 4% ABV.
If the 3.2 restriction in Oklahoma is eradicated, a game-changing snowball will begin to roll. First, it may no longer make economic sense for breweries (both big and small) to continue brewing separate, relatively small amounts of 3.2 beer for the remaining states. And if 3.2 beer is no longer available in sufficient quantities, it will be difficult for grocery stores and convenience stores to continue selling it. And if no one sells 3.2 beer, how can 3.2 beer laws be supported?
The 3.2 beer laws vary slightly in the five states, but the most common themes are:
- grocery and convenience stores are only allowed to sell 3.2 beer (higher strength beer is sold in liquor stores, many of which are government-controlled stores with limited and inconvenient hours)
- beer stronger than 3.2% ABW cannot be sold cold
- the only alcohol you can buy on Sunday is 3.2 beer
In Oklahoma, breweries are not allowed to sell beer directly to the public, unless it’s 3.2 beer. Liquor stores can sell full-strength beer, but it cannot be kept cold.