OKLAHOMA CITY – Beer buns raise their mugs to a stronger brew in three states that once prohibit merchants from selling anything other than low alcohol brands, and the changes could indirectly chill the industry in two others where such rules remain.  Until October, Oklahoma grocery and grocery stores could stock beer with only 3.2 percent alcohol content – significantly lower than even leading light beer brands. Alcohol stores could sell stronger 8.99 percent beer but were forbidden to sell cold beer of any strength.
Votes approved changes now provide stronger beers for sale in Oklahoma grocery and grocery stores. And many of the changes are adopted this year in the neighboring states of Colorado and Kansas.
The beer revolution leaves only two states ̵
"It's a dramatic fall," says Brett Robinson, president of beer retailers in Oklahoma, representing some beer retailers in the state. "In Oklahoma, beer is just beer. There's no more definition or classification."
Oklahoma was the first of the country's five 3.2 beer states to make the switch. It is ironic, given that alcohol was illegal until the electorate abolished the state ban in 1959 – 26 years after the ban was lifted nationally.
"It was a long time to come," said Lisette Barnes, president of the Oklahoma Beer Alliance, a beer industry association. "It's refreshing. I think overwhelming people are happy about it. It's been a good thing for both industry and consumers."
As the baby beer market continues to decline, breweries must decide whether it is profitable to continue to do so – a decision that could make dry beer supplies dry up in Utah and Minnesota.
Anheuser-Busch, the world's largest beer producer, said it would work to meet consumer needs in the 3.2 percent beer state, even in the midst of falling demand.
"While we will continue to produce 3.2 percent beer, regulatory and regulatory changes in Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas affecting the demand for 3.2 percent beer will affect our national production," the company said in a statement. In December.
But some breweries are already down on their 3.2 percent beer production. Oklahoma City-based craft brews COOP Ale Works, which distributes in six states including Oklahoma and Kansas, has interrupted two of its three 3.2 percent brews.
"The only reason we produced the other two beers was to have beer in the grocery store and convenience stores," said Sean Mossman, COOP Director Sales and Marketing Director. "Now that we can sell our more popular styles in grocery stores, we just don't see any need to continue producing those beers."
And selling COOP's flagship in grocery stores "has been a blessing to us" Mossman said. He said the brewer's business increased by 50 percent in the months when Oklahoma merchants began to litter their stronger beers. New rules come into effect in Kansas in April, where grocery stores and grocery stores can start selling beer with an alcohol content of 6 percent.
"In general, we are very happy that 3.2 beers are dead," he said. "Death of 3.2 beers is good for us."
Dwindling supplies with low point breweries are some state regulators have considered.
"That's the question we've been facing for a couple of years." said Terry Wood, Communications Director of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. "Business decisions can be made that make it just a financial choice for the breweries to stop producing 3.2 beers."
Former Minnesota State Secretary Jenifer Loon, who drafted legislation that lifted a long ban on sales of Sunday products in 2017, said legislative changes in other states are likely to force Minnesota legislators to consider allowing full strength beer in grocery and grocery stores .
"The market is likely to control this. In the foreseeable future, there is likely to be a change" Loon said.
Food retailers have expressed support for selling strong beer in the past, but any effort to expand beer sales is likely to be countered with fierce resistance, she said.
"It has been very difficult to draw our liquor laws in the 21st century," Loon said.
Currently, low-point bunks will continue to be produced by New Belgium Brewing Co., a craft brewery based in Fort Collins, Colorado, spokesman Bryan Simpson said. Production of 3.2 percent includes only half of the brewery's total production, and the company will only buy it for Utah, Simpson said.
"It makes sense for us to do it because we want to be there," Simpson said. He said the company's breweries were already set up to produce low-point buns and "there's really no point beating the brakes."