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Friday, January 31, 2014

Tennessee's Alcohol Laws For Dummies

It seems these days everyone is talking about Wine In Grocery Stores, Fix The Beer Cap, High Gravity Beer, Low Gravity Beer, etc, etc, etc.  What does it all mean for craft beer in Tennessee?  Let us help sort it all out for you. 

ABW vs. ABV
The first thing you need to know is that in the state of Tennessee, any alcoholic beverage that contains more than 5% alcohol by weight (ABW) may only be sold in a liquor store.  However, it is worth mentioning that most beer, wine, and liquor labels note alcohol by volume (ABV) which equals ABW x 1.25.  Therefor, anything with 6.25% alcohol by volume or more may only be sold in a liquor store.

So...let's recap:

Low Gravy Beer = 6.25% ABV or less.
High Gravity Beer = More than 6.25% ABV 

Wine In Grocery Stores Bill
Recently, a bill went through the State House and Senate regarding the sale of wine in grocery stores, big-box retailers, and convenience stores.  There was a period of time when high gravity beer was included in this bill, however it was removed.  This bill passed in The House, and a revised version passed in The Senate on January 30.  The revised version is headed back to The House, and if approved and signed by Governor Haslam, Tennessee residents who do not live in a dry county will have the opportunity to vote as early as this November whether or not they would like wine in grocery stores, big-box retailers, and convenience stores.  If the public votes for wine to be sold in grocery stores, they may begin stocking wine with 18% alcohol by volume or less beginning July 1, 2016.

Fix The Beer Cap
Linus Hall, the owner and brewmaster of Yazoo Brewing Company, along with a handful of other folks founded The Craft Brewers Guild in 2011.  They have recently spearheaded an initiative to change Tennessee's restrictions that prevent grocery stores, big-box retailers, and convenience stores from selling beer above 5% ABW.  It is important to note, that Tennessee does not have a true beer cap in the same sense that some other states do.  For instance, in Ohio, a beer cannot be sold anywhere in the state if it exceeds 12% ABV.  In Tennessee, there is not a cap that would prevent the sale of the same beer, it would simply have to be sold in a liquor store.

So why is it important to, "Fix the beer cap," and allow grocery stores, big-box retailers, and convenience stores to sell high gravity beer?  Here's how we see it:

1. There are many acclaimed breweries who will not distribute to the state of Tennessee (Or send their full lineup) because of Tennessee's beer laws.

2. Many local breweries tend to brew low gravity beer as there are a limited amount of venues for the sale of high gravity beer.  Raising the beer cap would allow local breweries to brew more robust and interesting beers without sacrificing their reach and availability.

3. The availability of high gravity beer in grocery stores, big-box retailers, and convenience stores would keep prices competitive.

4. Imagine having a wider selection of craft beer at your local grocery store... sounds nice, doesn't it?

Want to support Fix The Beer Cap?  Visit The Craft Brewers Guild's page here to find out how you can help.


Make sense?  Still have questions?  Tweet at us or hit us up on Facebook.

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