Low ABV beers just for certain states

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by larrychandler, Jan 28, 2013.

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  1. larrychandler

    larrychandler Initiate (0) Jan 28, 2013 Utah

    Does anyone know for sure if some brews are deliberately lowered in alcohol for states like Utah that only permit 4% ABV to be sold in supermarkets? (In Utah, beers above that level can only be sold in state stores).
  2. tronester

    tronester Meyvn (1,082) Nov 25, 2006 Oklahoma

    I'm sure AB does this with Budweiser found in the Oklahoma market. Since the grocery and convieniece stores sell it, it has to be below 3.2abw.
  3. leedorham

    leedorham Crusader (720) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    The number of light beers that are formulated at 3.2%abw (4% abv) is conspicuously large.
  4. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,293) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Yes, Anheuser-Busch and most of the other larger brewers, both domestic and imports, make "not more than 3.2 ABW" beers to sell in those handful of states that still limit the alcohol level for some licensees. Most of those breweries practice "high gravity brewing" - brewing a strong beer and then adding sterilized, carbonated water to bring it down to "normal" strength. Probably they just add more water for the current 3.2's.

    AB even has a 3.2 version of it's new Budweiser Black Crown which is supposed to be higher in alcohol than regular Bud.


    Although my favorite is the Old English 800 3.2 - an under 4% abv malt liquor. Still no word on an Old English 800 Near Beer.
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  5. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (5,839) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    I bet that sells like crazy. :stuck_out_tongue:
  6. Tballz420

    Tballz420 Meyvn (1,187) Mar 4, 2003 Minnesota

    MN has some backwater alcohol laws, and one of them is that any beer sold in gas stations or grocery stores must be 3.2% or less. That is by weight, so in reality that isn't much "ligther" than something like natty light, which if I recall off the top of my head is 4.2% ABV
  7. tronester

    tronester Meyvn (1,082) Nov 25, 2006 Oklahoma

    AB has also introduced the Bud Light Platinum to the Oklahoma market. My brother said he tried it. I told him that it was not the same thing as they got in other states.
  8. TheSSG

    TheSSG Champion (850) Jul 27, 2008 Illinois

    You live in Utah.

    You know the answer, hahahaha
    I was in Moab and got some ~4% Squatters (I think) Hefe, and then got a Barleywine at the State store!
  9. keysburg

    keysburg Initiate (138) Mar 28, 2012 Massachusetts

    He lives in Cedar City. If he's like me when I lived in St. George, he takes the trip down to Nevada to stock up.
  10. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    An interesting factoid about these 3.2ABW beers that I picked up in Maureen Ogle's book Ambitious Brew was that the limit of 4%ABV apparently was in part modelled after Swedish laws on alcohol. Sweden had a referendum on whether to introduce prohibition in 1922 but it was defeated by a narrow margin. However the government went ahead and banned the sale of beer stronger than 3.6%ABV. This limit was raised to 4%ABV (3.2%ABW) in the following year which then became the strongest commercially available beer strenght until 1955.

    Ahead of the repeal of the 18th amendment in the US, the Cullen-Harrison act legalized 4%ABV beer. During a congressional hearing some member of congress whom I can't recall the name of testified on the non-intoxicating effects of 4% beer by refering to experiences he gained whilst visting a brewery in Sweden where he was served several bottles of 4% strenght beer and then examined for any intoxicating effects, of which there were none apparently despite him having skipped breakfast (if I recall the story correctly). Not long after the Cullen-Harrison act stronger beer was made legal but obviously the 4%ABV limit had a residual impact on legislation in certain states across the country. I guess the people of Utah should at least be glad that our government upped the legal limit here from 3.6% well ahead of the congressman's visit :stuck_out_tongue: (incidentally 3.5%ABV is today the highest legal strenght for beer sold in grocery stores here).
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  11. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,293) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Don't remember that re: Sweden in Ogle's book - will check it out later tonight.

    Before full Prohibition was enacted by the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act, the US during and immediately after WWI had what has called "Wartime Prohibition" by Presidential decree, under provisions of the Lever Act (aka "Food and Fuel Control Act"). That limited US beer (but, reportedly, not ale or porter) to 2.75% ABV to conserve grain (breweries were also limited to 75% of their previous grain usage.

    After full national Prohibition went into effect, efforts were still being made to amend the Volstead Act's definition of "intoxicating beverage" or have it declared it unconstitutional, etc. Even during the debates over Repeal and the Cullen Act there were some brewers who supported the pre-Pro lower 2.75% ABV rather than the eventual 3.2abw/4abv that became law March, '33 and went effective in most states in April, '33 (when they followed suit by changing state law, when necessary). My favorite quote from that debate is again from a Busch:

  12. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I'm pretty sure it was mentioned in her book, or in the book Brewing battles: a history of American beer which is very similar in its content to Ogle's book, might have gotten them mixed up but my money is still on Ogle. The paragraph started something like "But how strong should the beer be?" and she then went on to describe the arguments over what constituted an intoxicating beverage, mentioning the congressman travelling to Sweden. I only had access to both via the google books preview function which seems to arbitrarily alter the pages that are previewed inbetween visits.
  13. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    That's the closest I am able to get to the excerpt via a google search, but it's in Ogle's book.
  14. RangnaR

    RangnaR Initiate (0) Dec 17, 2012 California

    Last year I was in Tulsa on business and unaware it was a 3.2 state. My first night I was in the hotel bar and grabbed a Blue Moon (was the craftiest thing I could find), and couldn't figure out why it tasted like Orange Crush to me (they still served it with the orange slice)...
  15. MammaGoose

    MammaGoose Initiate (0) Jan 10, 2013 Wyoming

    God, why even bother selling/buying it? One could obtain a better buzz from gas station coffee.

    I'm glad I don't live in Utah for so...so many reasons.
    GeddyLeeRocks likes this.
  16. UCLABrewN84

    UCLABrewN84 Poo-Bah (12,566) Mar 18, 2010 California

    Was beer of 4.5% or so the norm during that time period? Were there more extreme beers in that era that contained much more alcohol?
  17. Ranbot

    Ranbot Zealot (512) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    I have a vacation planned for this year to see UT national parks [and Grand Canyon]...I better pack beer! :grimacing:
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  18. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,293) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Yeah, most of the sources I've found for the late 19th-early 20th century in the US put most lager beers at 4 - 5%, with "ales" usually 5 - 6% (ditto for porters). There were a number of stronger ales - stock ales, india pale ales - and some stouts which probably got up to around 8% or so. The concept by some craft brewers that "American lagers were much stronger before Prohibition" doesn't appear to be the case when the records are examined.
  19. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I wonder if the continued use of abw instead of abv is a conscious decision to make the products seem less desirable (whilst the idea is to simultaneously make the 3.2 licences the most easy to obtain and thus make the 3.2 beer the most available kind of alcohol beverage, one which people don't feel an overwhelming urge to buy).
    I can't help but wonder since going by the beer sales it seems as though 4.2% beer in the form of Bud light, Miller Lite, Coors light, Natural light and Busch light are all extremely popular and making up the majority of the beer sales. Yet this 3.2 beer seems to have a pretty lousy reputation, and not just for its flavor. I doubt that it's unheard of for people, young and old, to drink themselves senseless on bud light or miller lite or coors light, since it's the standard fare of parties across the country. Yet the 0.2% difference in alcohol apparently makes 3.2 beer into a beverage only fit for teetotalers :stuck_out_tongue: . Utah is 0.2% away from being party central U.S.A.

    Maybe it has something to do with the beer being a government creation in a sense, the government wants you to drink this beer instead of that other beer, which is hardly an appealing concept to most people, so they want that other beer instead.
  20. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    Was there a difference inbetween the Bavarian style lagers and the Bohemian style lagers that you know of where the Bavarian style lagers had an abv closer to 5% or more? Considering the fact that Pilsner Urquell was (from what I understand) and still is 4.4% it would make sense for the Bohemian style beers in the US to maintain a similar alcohol content.
  21. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (5,839) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    I've had quite a few of the 4%abv brews from UT, thanks to trading. If you're looking for a buzz, it would take you a while but a lot of what I tried had some darn good taste to them.
  22. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,293) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    I don't have a lot of specific beer ABV's for the pre-Pro era - maybe around 50-75 (and, confusingly, they often are contradictory for particular brands, when done by state or private labs). Most general publications in the era just called them "lagers" and didn't differentiate between Bohemian or Bavarian type, and I've never done enough individual brand research to know which were which beyond the most famous (Budweiser, Pabst Blue Ribbon).

    The few that could be different types of lager from the same brewer, same year (1906) but two diff. sources:

    alcohol, per cent. by vol.
    Blatz Milwaukee Lager - 4.58​
    Blatz Export Lager - 5.00​

    Miller Buffet Lager - 4.95​
    Miller Lager - 5.02​
    Fred. Miller High Life - 4.18​

    (for reference) Budweiser - 4.37​
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  23. UCLABrewN84

    UCLABrewN84 Poo-Bah (12,566) Mar 18, 2010 California

    What was the difference between the Miller Lager and Miller Buffet Lager?
  24. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,293) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    About 0.07% alcohol by the looks of it. :grinning:


    Don't think I've ever come across any description of it- but most pre-Pro lager brewers had a portfolio of half a dozen to a dozen different lagers. Some went by style names/descriptors (i.e. Wiener [Vienna], Bavarian, Bohemian, Culmbacher, Wuerzburger, Pilsener, etc.,) but many didn't.
  25. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    Thanks for the information. When I read export I imagined a dortmunder style lager but it seems as though it could just as well be combined with a wiener style beer (if it's the same beer as the export lager in your list).

    Seems like the Blatz brewery ran the whole gamut of beers, and distinguishing between both Muenchener (I imagine this to be the equivalent of the dark "bavarian lager beers" that were introduced in both the US and Sweden during the mid-1800s) and Wiener.
  26. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    But I realize (though I find that I need to be reminded of it now and again) that it's futile to try and look for set and fixed patterns in brewing back in the day, as the stats clearly showed it wasn't as clearcut as today when the light lager is almost always 4.2% and the regular bohemian style lager is within the 4.7-5% range almost always. It always struck me as odd that Milwaukee's best was 4.3% and not closer to 5% (and this may very well have changed over time), but looking at those stats it's clear that the pilsner style was always flexible and open for the brewer's own take on it, as were the other styles brewed (and again with Pilsner Urquell being at 4.4% it's hardly an unusually low abv for the style, I'm just used to the pilsner-turned-export strenght beers of Sweden).
  27. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,293) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Yeah, I've seen the arguments about what "Export" means for contemporary German brewers' beers, but from what I've read, in the US pre-Pro era (and to some extent, post-Repeal) "Export" might refer to any German style, often stated (like on the Blatz label) but not always, and implied a higher grade beer and/or one specifically brewed to be bottled and/or shipped to distant markets. Wahl & Henius' Handy Book (available on Google Books and elsewhere on the net) discusses it quite a bit, IIRC.

    Yeah, Blatz's line-up looks similar (even if they use some different names/styles) as the other Milwaukee brewers and other large "shipping" lager breweries like A-B and other large mid-West and Northeast breweries.

    Miller post-Repeal called their draught-only dark beer "Munchener" into, at least, the 1970's, Schaefer had a similar beer they label "Braunslager", in New England a tap labeled "Bavarian" used to be a dark version of the particular brewers brand, etc. Coors Export Beer (bottled) of the 1930-40's they described as a "Vienna type" beer.


    Are you talking about the "best" beers out of Milwaukee or the Miller discount brand, Milwaukee's Best? IIRC, "Milwaukee's Best" was a discount brand Miller acquired with the purchase of the Gettleman brands in the early '60's.

    I don't put much stock in all the old ABV/ABW numbers as specific levels - just too much variation - I've seen some government tax reports where even their "testing" resulted in two different ABV's or, for those charts that list both ABW and ABV, those amounts do not always equal the same amounts. Even in that A. Busch quote, he's not specific about Budweiser's ABV.

    I do feel comfortable with saying only that most US pre-Pro. lager beers tended to fall in the 4-5% range, certainly always below 6%.
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  28. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    That's good to know for future reference if I encounter references to export lagers being made by American brewers. It's easy to get confused if one doesn't know the country-specific meaning or use of a term.

    I found this marketing video for Busch Bavarian beer to be rather interesting, describing A-Bs fora into "popular priced" beer with a pilsner beer called Busch Bavarian, associating it with the beers of Bavaria in its marketing. In a way this makes sense since I would imagine that helles lagers had started to become popular (they might even have dominated the sales by then, the 1950s) in bavaria. The dark bavarian lager was after all complemented or supplanted by pale lagers in most countries by the turn of the century. In the video they specifically say that they avoided labels such as "lager", "muenchener", "pilsner" and "bohemian" since they "mean little or nothing to today's customer". So they were prepared to use either munchener, bavarian or pilsner for the same pilsner style beer :stuck_out_tongue:. I guess them dropping the Bavarian name in favor of simply Busch meant that the term bavarian also had lost all meaning to the customers of back then (perhaps in part due to A-B itself contributing to confusion over the meaning of the term bavarian with its pilsner beer Busch bavarian :stuck_out_tongue:)...

    At 1:30 and onwards is the mentioning of the beer styles:

    A really interesting video btw. At the 22:30 mark is another marketing video for Budweiser malt liquor.
    Yeah I meant the budget brand acquired by Miller.

    I wonder what the cause of these discrepancies could have been. One would imagine that the brewing standards would have been such as to produce a repeatable product with more or less stable parameters, but perhaps there were deviations due to variations in the malted barley in different years etc.
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  29. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (5,839) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Premium Member Beer Trader

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  30. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    That is interesting, would you happen to know what changed concerning the recipe?
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  31. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (5,839) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    It's been a heck of a long time since I had the Bavarian but I reckon the use of adjuncts went up and the mild but pleasant hoppiness I remember it having went down. A track record that AB is known for even with their once flagship Budweiser.
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  32. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,293) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    My impression is that it was also a Gettleman lower priced brand originally, and that Miller brewed it for the local mid-West and other regional markets but didn't really distribute it widely until the 1980's, as the bigger national breweries got heavily into the "discount/popular" priced segments - Schlitz-Stroh's Old Milwaukee, Coors' Keystone - even Busch Bavarian [nice video find, BTW] wasn't nationally distributed until around that period. Miller's first major national foray into the popular price segment on a national level was Meister Brau, around that same era.

    I blame it mostly on what I figure were the probable primitive/faulty/inaccurate methods used by the independent/government testing facilities of the era.
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  33. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,382) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    The beer bars and grocery stores sell 4% ABV beer. The brewpubs sell 4% beer, except I have had a higher ABV beer with a meal. It was from a bottle that the brewery had sold to the state store and then bought back from the state store, then sold to me with my meal IIRC.

    If you want higher ABV beers go to the state store, look up the hours in advance. UT police are said to be a little particular about a trunk load of beer from out of state, so don't speed if you bring beer in. :wink:
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  34. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    Right, similar to the development for most AALs I suppose. Was there a noticable change inbetween dropping the name Bavarian from the name, or do you reckon it was a slow creep that preceded and exceeded this milestone?
  35. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (5,839) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    I didn't notice a change before the Bavarian was dropped. IIRC, there was a period of years before the current Busch Beer showed up to replace it.
  36. Chaz

    Chaz Poo-Bah (1,950) Feb 3, 2002 Minnesota
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    To be fair to our backwater state, Summit Brewing Company offers a tasty 3.2 version of Extra Pale Ale. :wink:
  37. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    You mean there was a period where neither Busch Bavarian or Busch was sold? According to wikipedia the name change occurred in 1979.
  38. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (5,839) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    Sold? I don't know but I did say in another post of mine that 1979 was the last year Bavarian was used in the name and when I moved to Casper in 1980, there was no Busch of any kind around for sale.
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  39. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I suppose there may have been a period when their distribution didn't reach into those parts of Wyoming. Once there was a national roll-out they might have done it on a state by state level.
  40. Seanvino

    Seanvino Initiate (141) Jan 5, 2009 California

    There was a period during the early '80's that Busch was not available in CA before returning. I remember my sisters bf returning from MO with Busch beer, was unimpressed.
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