Utah: General Beer Rules

Discussion in 'Mountain' started by dcw6363, Jun 25, 2018.

  1. dcw6363

    dcw6363 Initiate (76) Nov 11, 2009 Utah

    I just moved to Utah and I am learning the general beer regulations. Here are my observations so far. Hopefully this will help anyone visiting Utah. Corrections are welcome.

    Most of you are aware that Utah has some weird alcohol laws. For example, up until 2009, in order to drink at a “real” bar (i.e. a place you could order a drink without food), you had to be a “member” of the bar. Being a member meant you had to pay a fee (I think it was an annual fee). The good news is that these laws have become a bit less restrictive in the past couple decades. However, there are still some obstacles to getting good beer in Utah. Here is what I have found so far.

    1. All tap beer must be 4.0% or lower. That’s 4.0% by volume, or 3.2% by weight. This is probably my least favorite beer law in the state. There are no exceptions for tap beer sold at a brewery or a “real” bar. Stronger beer can be sold in bottles/cans in certain establishments and in liquor stores (see #3 and #4 below), but not on tap. This law really sucks.

    2. Grocery stores can only sell 4.0% beer. This wouldn’t annoy me so much, except for the fact that the stronger beer sold in liquor stores cannot be sold chilled. Grocery store beer can be sold chilled, but it’s only the 4.0% stuff.

    3. You can buy “strong” beer at certain restaurants/bars, and at the brewery. However, remember this will be in bottles/cans only. So, for example, if you go to Epic, you can't get Big Bad Baptist on tap. (Did I mention that this tap rule sucks?)

    4. All liquor stores are state-run. This is where you buy hard liquor, wine, and beer that is over 4.0% (they can also sell the 4.00% beer). Beer at liquor stores cannot be sold cold. I think the price on any given item is the same in every liquor store.

    5. All beer sold at liquor stores is priced per bottle/can. There is no discount allowed if you buy a 12-pack. This is good for buying singles of beer you haven’t tried, but bad for getting good 12-pack pricing.

    6. Breweries can sell their strong to-go beer cold.

    7. Beer is expensive in Utah. The mark-up on beer seems higher than the mark-up on wine. I moved here from Madison, WI. At Woodman’s, the local grocery store I used to go to in Madison, you could sometimes get Sierra Nevada Pale Ale for around $13 or $14 per 12-pack. At Steve’s Liquor, it was about $16. In Utah, it’s $22.68 for a 12-pack of SNPA. (Plus tax). Wine is also more expensive in Utah, but not by as much. The beer is much more expensive in Utah. Part of the reason is probably the “no volume discount” rule.

    8. Beer selection varies from liquor store to liquor store. I have been in some liquor stores where there wasn’t much selection aside from BMC, some locals, and some basic Sierra Nevada/Lagunitas/New Belgium. However, some liquor stores have a pretty decent selection, including Germans and lots of CA/OR stuff like Deschutes/Ballast Point/Firestone Walker. However, selection was a lot better back in Madison. (Of course, we were kind of spoiled in Madison.)

    9. There are different types of bars and restaurants. Roughly, it goes like this:

    Beer-only restaurants: 4.0% beer (no strong beer, wine, or hard liquor)

    Limited service restaurants: wine and beer (including strong beer)

    Full-service restaurants: everything

    Taverns: 4.0% beer and wine/mixed drinks

    Bar: everything

    10. There are other dumb rules too. For example I don’t think you can get “double” mixed drinks. So, a martini can only have 1.5 oz. of gin total. This is a travesty of justice.

    General notes:

    Utah’s beer scene is improving but it is not as robust as you might expect. For example SLC has a metro population of over a million, so you might expect the beer scene to be pretty big—but remember, maybe half the people are Mormons, and so the beer scene is much smaller than other cities of comparable size. You just don’t have the customers.

    The 4.0% tap rule sucks, as does the “4% in grocery stores” rule. I have not been super-impressed with any 4% beer I have tried. I recognize the breweries are trying their best under a restrictive system. I think some people get used to the 4% beer, but I am not a fan. These 4% rules also mean that most breweries expend some of their energies making 4% beers, and I think this detracts from other styles they could be making.

    Given the somewhat limited selection and the high prices, one could make a beer run to Wyoming. For example, Evanston Wyoming is only 80 miles from SLC. Round trip is 160 miles, if you get 40 highway that’s 4 gallons of gas which is around $13. You could easily save $13 on a beer trip, for example a 12-pack of Sierra Nevada is $22.68 plus tax in Utah, and $16.49 at a store I called in Evanston WY. That’s a savings of over $0.50 per beer. Buy 26 beers and you cover the price of gas. This assumes all beer is cheaper in WY which may or may not be the case. I’m gonna guess they have more CO beer in Wyoming too. You should know that it is illegal to bring beer in from other states, so I am not recommending this. :rolling_eyes:

    The driving BAC limit in Utah is supposed to go down to 0.05% at the end of 2018. Right now it's 0.08%. My guess is that cops are not very forgiving in this area.

    Any other Utahns have things to add?
  2. WillemHC

    WillemHC Initiate (134) Jun 21, 2013 Utah

    The 4% ABV draft limit is easily what frustrates me the most. However, I do think some breweries do a great job within that limit. Fisher comes to mind fastest - they crush it and all of their beers are supposedly 4% or below. I also think Desert Edge does a good job in that range. Also, it prompts breweries to do more than pump out hazy IPAs as they seem to be emphasizing throughout the rest of the country. We have good diversity in low-alcohol beer styles as a result I feel. That said, there are rumors that suggest the 4% ABV rule will change soonish - maybe during the 2019 legislative session. It may be eliminated or it may be increased to 6%, from what I hear and this may either effect one of non-liquor store sales or draft beer, or both. Does anyone have an update on these rumors?
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  3. Dan_K

    Dan_K Zealot (508) Nov 8, 2013 Colorado

    It's interesting that the law are restrictive... I guess they work? You have the lowest DUI deaths in the country. Also fairly low population.
    And culturally- a bit different perhaps?
    It looks like the alcohol consumption per capita is the lowest in the country - by far.
    Did the restrictive laws limit the drinking, or did the culture produce that?
    dukeandduke likes this.
  4. dcw6363

    dcw6363 Initiate (76) Nov 11, 2009 Utah

    I think the short answer is that the state legislature is Mormon by a big majority , and Mormons don't drink alcohol.

    Edit: Wiki says "As of 2016, 88 percent of members of the Utah legislature were affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints"
  5. ManBearPat

    ManBearPat Devotee (456) Dec 2, 2014 Colorado

    No weed there either
  6. MtnSoup

    MtnSoup Aspirant (289) May 20, 2013 Colorado

    Utah is seeing one of the largest booms of distilleries though! So there's that...I guess.
    dukeandduke likes this.
  7. wasatchback

    wasatchback Disciple (323) Jan 12, 2014 Utah

    Lowest DUI deaths cause the state has the lowest percentage of drinkers of any state... by far. It’s not the low ABV that’s causing that it’s jebus.

    Beer scene here is horrendous. The few Fisher beers I’ve had are good. Most everything else is pretty middle of the road. There are some interesting breweries just opening or in planning. We’ll see. I’ve had way more awesome sub 4% beer outside of UT than here in UT.
    dukeandduke likes this.
  8. denver10

    denver10 Poo-Bah (2,542) Nov 17, 2010 New Mexico

    As someone who prefers lower abv beers, in general, I couldn't handle those draft laws.

    And what is up with not allowing folks to go out and drink a beer at a brewery on tap at greater than 4% abv and then going allow someone to drink a bomber of Big Bad Baptist? Did I read it right, is that how it works?
    dukeandduke likes this.
  9. wyoming

    wyoming Initiate (0) Sep 4, 2007 Wyoming

    Ex communicated morman drinking team rocks !
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  10. Sabtos

    Sabtos Poo-Bah (7,243) Dec 15, 2015 Ohio
    Society Trader

    I see you mentioned bringing in beer from other states is illegal. I assume that means there's also an issue with shipping in or bringing beer from out of state, at least when traveling? Flying in particular? I had a friend recently travel there (I too plan to maybe within the year), and he was severely upset and disappointed with the beer scene, not having been aware of it prior to traveling.
    dukeandduke likes this.
  11. Hinda65

    Hinda65 Initiate (184) May 7, 2017 Utah

    You can bring beer in your luggage...I always load a suitcase to bring home while out of town and they've been searched everytime...TSA doesn't care. There are a few nice beer bars that carry a lot of stuff the liquor stores don't. Beer Bar, Bayou and Bee Hive do ok with their selections...still, probably nothing your use too.
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  12. dcw6363

    dcw6363 Initiate (76) Nov 11, 2009 Utah

    My understanding is that bringing in any beer, driving or flying, is illegal. There is a state FAQ page:

    https://abc.utah.gov/laws/law_faqs.html From that page:

    "May I bring alcoholic beverages into Utah?

    No! Under Utah law "alcoholic beverages" includes all hard liquor, spirits, wine and beer. Beer and other malt beverage products that exceed 3.2% alcohol by weight or 4.0% by volume are considered "liquor", and beer with an alcohol content of 3.2% or less is defined as "beer". Utah is a "control state", and only the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) may lawfully have liquor products imported and shipped into Utah. Private individuals may not lawfully import or transport them into the state."

    With that said, I would imagine @Hinda65 is correct, the TSA probably doesn't care; I would guess they have better things to worry about.
    #12 dcw6363, Jun 26, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2018
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  13. skriefal

    skriefal Initiate (15) Jun 27, 2018 Utah

    Flying in with beer in your suitcase is illegal, as is bringing in a carload of beer from over the border. But as noted above - the TSA isn't tasked with enforcing state laws. The most that they'll do is stuff a note in your suitcase that they examined the contents, and then seal it back up and send it on its way.
  14. skriefal

    skriefal Initiate (15) Jun 27, 2018 Utah

    Have you tried Kiitos? Good 4% sours and also a good 4% coconut stout, as well as good > 4% IPAs, NE IPAs, and stouts. 2 Row Brewing is also good.
  15. wasatchback

    wasatchback Disciple (323) Jan 12, 2014 Utah

    First sour I had from Kitos had a decent amount of diacetyl... don’t really drink many quick sour beers. I actually really liked their blonde I bought the other day at the grocery store. And yes I do enjoy most 2row beers. Not sure either one of those breweries would stand out in another state but they do make some decent beers.
    #15 wasatchback, Jun 27, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2018
  16. dcw6363

    dcw6363 Initiate (76) Nov 11, 2009 Utah

    Yeah you can buy the bombers in the liquor store or at the brewery, but you can't have it on tap.

    I kind of feel like there's an "Emperor has no clothes" thing going on, where everyone pretends these 4.0% beers are good. Like I said before, I know I'm being a bit uncharitable; people are just making the best out of the shitty hand they're dealt.

    I'm not even a high-ABV guy. I don't buy DIPAs and I rarely buy huge stouts (I did drink Central Waters BB stuff in WI, they were a great combo of cheap/fantastic/available). I probably drink more lagers and pilsners than the average BA. I love New Glarus Berliner Weiss (3.0%) and fruit beers (mostly 4.0%). But I'm sorry, the 4.0% ambers and hoppy ales just don't cut it, for the most part. IMO.

    Just so I'm not being a nattering nabob of negativity, let me say something positive. I find Bohemian Brewery to have some good stuff. I like their Dortmunder Export Lager (6.0% YEEEE-HAW!). Their Bock was good as well (this was their seasonal "real" bock, not the 4.0% Cherny Bock). The first altbier I had from them was also good, although the second one may have had some diacetyl issues.

    Have yet to try Kiitos as suggested above, will definitely check them out soon.
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  17. FarmerTed

    FarmerTed Aspirant (210) May 31, 2011 Colorado

    I lived near Desert Edge about 20 years ago for a couple of years. Their beers were all solid. They definitely knew how to brew low abv beers that had body and flavor. I loved that place.
    dukeandduke likes this.
  18. Wasatch

    Wasatch Poo-Bah (6,235) Jun 8, 2005 Colorado

    Lived there for 16 years, I know what your talking about.

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  19. Wasatch

    Wasatch Poo-Bah (6,235) Jun 8, 2005 Colorado

    Nice to see ya here.

  20. Sparty93

    Sparty93 Initiate (54) Aug 29, 2013 Michigan

    My mom lives on the western edge of Colorado, near Utah. I always enjoy the liquor store road signs along the border with some variation of "Approaching Utah, last chance to buy good beer".
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  21. utahcraft

    utahcraft Initiate (49) Jan 10, 2015 Utah

    Great summary! I'd just like to add a footnote to your point 4. Not all liquor stores are state run. There are Package Agencies: 'Package agencies are liquor outlets operated by private individuals or corporate entities under contract with the state for the purpose of selling packaged liquor, wine and beer to the general public for off-premise consumption. Package Agencies are located in communities too small to warrant the establishment of a state store, and in resorts and hotels where the outlets exist primarily for the benefit of their guests."

    And while state licensed and regulated, they have some independence in what they inventory and how they handle the beer. The Eden PA for example has a cold case and stocks a number of craft brands not available in the state run stores, such as Melvin, Mother Earth and Snake River.
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  22. dcw6363

    dcw6363 Initiate (76) Nov 11, 2009 Utah

    Thanks, this is good to know! It would be nice to get, say, Zonker stout.

    I found some info on these Package Agencies:


    There is a map at that link that shows where all the PAs are.

    Another thing I found, is that each month the state has a list of what beer is for sale in the state, along with some beer that has been sold in the past but discontinued. Here is the list for August.


    If that link doesn't work you can also go here and click on the price list for the current month:


    It should be noted that not everything on the list can be found in stores. There is an alphanumeric code at the bottom of each page. "1" means it should be available somewhere in the state, although that doesn't guarantee every store will have it. "L" seems to mean limited, which I think usually means seasonal. Some items can be special ordered. For example if there is a CA beer that gets distribution to CO, AZ, NM, WY, NV, but is not on the Utah list, they could probably special order it for you.

    Here is the site for special orders:


    Note that on the August list, "Cantillon Rose" is listed! However it has a code of "U" which means unavailable. I contacted the Utah ABC just to make sure--how great would it be if they could special order Cantillon for you! But they said I couldn't order that. It's only on the list because sometime in the past, someone special ordered it somehow.
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  23. Hinda65

    Hinda65 Initiate (184) May 7, 2017 Utah

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  24. utahcraft

    utahcraft Initiate (49) Jan 10, 2015 Utah

    Outpost Spirits in Eden carries Zonker as does the mini-mart on Hill Air Force Base.
    dcw6363 likes this.
  25. utahcraft

    utahcraft Initiate (49) Jan 10, 2015 Utah

    Limited means that it is only available in a few state stores, no system wide distribution.
  26. dcw6363

    dcw6363 Initiate (76) Nov 11, 2009 Utah

    Mind if I ask what the two special orders you got were (and the two that failed)? You weren't out any $ on the failed ones, were you?
    dukeandduke likes this.
  27. Hinda65

    Hinda65 Initiate (184) May 7, 2017 Utah

    Successes were a case of Parabola and Stickee Monkee last year....
    Fails were this year I ordered a case of Lagunitas Willitized..Last year another failed but I can't remember what now...

    I wasn't out any cash, you don't have to pay till you pick them up.

    Looks like there are a fair amount of Utah folks on this thread. If anyone is ever down for splitting a special order let me know...If we could do some with 2 or 3 people, it would make things a little more cost effective.
    dukeandduke likes this.
  28. dcw6363

    dcw6363 Initiate (76) Nov 11, 2009 Utah

    I searched the August list and the only current Oktoberfests I found were these:


    (Beck's and Paulaner listed as discontinued.) . All I did was search the list for "oktob" so if something is mis-classified or just listed as seasonal, I wouldn't have picked it up. Some things are mis-classified--for example it lists Ayinger Jahrhundert as an oktoberfest.

    Anyone know of others? Maybe there will be more next month. In the past has UT received the Sierra Nevada collaboration oktoberfest?

    I was hoping Bohemian brewery would make one. But they are kind of on my shit list, I emailed them about a batch of Alt that clearly has diacetyl problems and they never answered.
    dukeandduke likes this.
  29. Hinda65

    Hinda65 Initiate (184) May 7, 2017 Utah

    Leinenkugal has a seasonal that's in stock at a lot of stores....not sure if its their Oktoberfest lager.
  30. dcw6363

    dcw6363 Initiate (76) Nov 11, 2009 Utah

    Some Utah updates:

    1. New rules regarding beer displays in stores are being put into place


    These govern things like where and how beer can be displayed in grocery stores.

    2. Oklahoma got rid of its 4.0% beer, and CO and KS are cutting back too. A-B and other national brewers said they will cut back on the amount of 4.0% beer they make, since UT will be one of the only states left with 4.0% beer (MN may still have it?). I am hoping this will cause Utah to raise the limit. You never know with this state though.

    3. Also the .05% BAC law is still set to go into effect at the end of December, I believe. So definitely watch it in Utah.

    4. I am somewhat excited about the Templin Family Brewing which just opened a month or two ago. I think it's the brewer from Red Rock. I tried a couple of their 4% beers in the brewery, and they were pretty good for 4.0% beer (I am anti 4% beer in general if you can't tell). I only tried one full-strength beer, their Ferda IPA at 8.2% (I think), and I was encouraged. Will definitely be stopping by again.
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  31. Knobs303

    Knobs303 Aspirant (269) Nov 8, 2013 Colorado

    Just for clarification, you bought 24 x 12 oz bottles of Parabola and 24 x 12 oz bottles of Stickee Monkey, or was it 12 x 12 oz bottles of each? Anyway, I’m sure it wasn’t cheap, but good on ya. :sunglasses:
  32. Hinda65

    Hinda65 Initiate (184) May 7, 2017 Utah

    12 bottles per case @ $12.00/bottle.. Not cheap but I'm glad it wasn't 24!
    Knobs303 likes this.
  33. NewWaveDon

    NewWaveDon Initiate (25) Dec 6, 2018 Utah

    I'm new to the forum, this is my first post, I'm in Northern Utah County and I could be interested in splitting a special order. Where are you located? We should chat?

    Sent you a PM.
    #33 NewWaveDon, Dec 6, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018
  34. dcw6363

    dcw6363 Initiate (76) Nov 11, 2009 Utah

    The Utah Senate passed a bill to allow 6% ABV beer to be sold in grocery stores (right now it's 4%). You can read the current beer laws in the OP, but right now, any beer over 4% ABV can only be sold in state-run liquor stores.


    The new bill would allow beer that is 4-6% ABV to be sold in grocery stores. This is kind of a big deal--right now, if you want to buy (for example) Sierra Nevada pale ale, you have to buy it at the state liquor stores. The state liquor stores have all beer priced per single, and there is no 12-pack discount, and there are no sales.

    Grocery stores can run sales and offer better prices on 12-packs. But right now that means only 4% beer. Most of this 4% beer is not very good, IMO. So if the bill passes the Utah House and is signed by the governor, we should be able to get cheaper beer that is 4-6%.

    Oddly enough, the craft beer breweries in the state were against this bill. They stated that it would mainly benefit AB and the other big breweries (they're pretty much right about this). The craft brewers want the % cap lifted altogether (or made much higher than 6%).

    However, politically, the % cap is not going to be abolished altogether. Not while the LDS has most of the legislature seats. The only reason this bill has any support at all is that most states are doing away with their 4% laws, and the big AB-type breweries aren't going to continue to make 4% beer just for Utah. (See article link above). This is probably the best bill we are going to get for now.

    This will mean we should be able to get some regional beers in grocery stores at lower prices than we paid at the state-run liquor stores: (for example) SN Pale Ale 5.6%), Odell 90 Shilling (5.3%), Deschutes Black Butte (5.2%), FW Pivo Pils (5.3%).

    However on anything over 6%, we will still have to get those at state liquor stores.

    I am not sure what this bill would do to the 4% tap limit, does anyone know?

    You can track bill here:

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  35. WillemHC

    WillemHC Initiate (134) Jun 21, 2013 Utah

    It means beer on tap can be up to 6%ABV too. My understanding is that this is because the heavy beer definition is changed from >4%abv to >6%abv. As such, all beer <=6% can do all of what non-heavy beer can (like be served on tap, bought in grocery stores, sold at places without liquor licences). If anyone has updates on if/when the house will visit the bill, please keep us posted! I saw one article where the speaker of the house said they aren't sure if they'll even visit the bill.. Another interesting artifact is that, even if it passes, it won't go into effect until October.
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  36. skriefal

    skriefal Initiate (15) Jun 27, 2018 Utah

    Well - they're correct. But there's also no chance of lifting all limits in Utah at this time. Maybe 20 years from now.

    I haven't heard anything re: whether Minnesota will also be dropping the 4% ABV limit.
  37. dcw6363

    dcw6363 Initiate (76) Nov 11, 2009 Utah

    The general legislative session ends March 14 so if it's gonna be done the normal way, it would be by then. However they have special sessions sometimes later in the year--these are typically one day long and sometimes they vote on misc. bills during those. However there is no good way to predict whether/when a special session might occur, or whether this bill would be taken up if there is a special session. Unless you know a legislator I guess
  38. Wasatch

    Wasatch Poo-Bah (6,235) Jun 8, 2005 Colorado

    I remember a few years back when I lived there, there was a bill or whatever to get over 4% ABV on-tap, it did not happen, and probably has not been mentioned since.

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  39. WillemHC

    WillemHC Initiate (134) Jun 21, 2013 Utah

    My guess is that it is a bit more promising this time around. There seem to be powerful entities lobbying in favor of the definition change.
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  40. Wasatch

    Wasatch Poo-Bah (6,235) Jun 8, 2005 Colorado