House Republicans blame ‘beer hysteria’ for controversy surrounding higher alcohol beer

Beer Store

It was clear after a House GOP caucus Thursday – if it wasn’t before – that there will not be a bill passed this session allowing Utah retail outlets to sell so-called “heavy beer.”

Instead, the beer policy will be studied over the nine-month interim and, perhaps, addressed in the 2020 Legislature.

After leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out against “heavy beer” being sold in convenience and grocery stores, any attempt to change current beer law would be dicey this session.

But in an at-times witty power-point presentation in the open House caucus, House Rules Committee Chairman Tim Hawkes said expanding the higher-alcohol-content heavy beer is a health and safety issue, not a commercial fairness issue.

Hawkes, R-Centerville, showed pictures of the huge beer aisles at local grocery stores, asking where is the “crisis” in retail beer sales?

Yes, there are certain “skews” – or product codes – that are reducing in sales. But that could be caused by certain container sizes, or brands, of “light beer” not being popular anymore.

There is no indication – although big retailers like WalMart and Cosco disagree – that big, national brewers are dropping production of 3.2 percent beer, said Hawkes.

Light beer buyers are just buying different sizes of beer cans or different sizes of beer containers – from six packs to 8 or 12 packs, said Hawkes.

Anyway, said Hawkes, there is certainly time to study heavy beer sales over the next year, and come up with an overall policy that can address what may happen if heavy, 4.8 percent beer is allowed to be sold in retail outlets instead of just in state liquor stores.

As reported by, some lawmakers worry huge chain stores, like WalMart or Cosco, could fund a citizen initiative campaign in Utah – with the result that in 2020 voters could change state law to allow heavy beers and win sales in retail outlets.

But there’s time, said Hawkes, to address all of this “beer hysteria” next year, and SB132 – which would have allowed heavy beers in retail stores – can stay amended, and just require a study of heavy beer sales over the summer.