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(Beer) laws of the land

Beer regulations vary in each state—and sometimes, by counties within states—so before you hit the road, check out these assorted brew rules.
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WEB_20170308_StateLawsSome idiosyncratic liquor laws stick around so long that they become ingrained in a state’s drinking psyche: the erstwhile ban on six-pack sales in Pennsylvania (recently overturned, at long last) or Utah’s 4% ABV cap on draft beer. They’re mostly vestiges of Prohibition-era regulations, and regardless of their origins they can be a hassle for locals and especially out-of-the-loop travelers unaware of a state’s specific quirks. Ever tried to buy beer on Sunday from a Minnesota liquor store to drink at home during a football game? You know the pain. These are some of the more inconvenient—and downright weird—regulations around the country.

In Rhode Island, beer is taxed while wine and spirits are not. Additionally, breweries are limited to selling 288 total ounces of beer togo and 36 ounces for on-premise consumption to each person.

West Virginia breweries are limited to selling a customer two 64-ounce growlers per day and there is a 12% ABV cap on all beer sold.

Texas breweries cannot sell their beer to-go, but brewpubs can. Two breweries in north Texas are in the process of suing the state for the right of all breweries to do so.

Indiana does not allow carry-out sales at grocery, drug or liquor stores on Sundays, but breweries making beer on-site can sell to-go beer in cans, bottles, growlers and crowlers on Sundays. No matter which day of the week it is, cold beer can only be purchased at retail from a liquor store or the brewery itself; grocery and drug stores can only sell room-temperature beer.

In Iowa, businesses (like salons or barber shops) can give away beer or wine without a license, but can’t make it dependent on the customer purchasing a service or product. So if your salon crew would hand you a free beer with your haircut, they have to offer you the same beer if you just walked in off the street and didn’t pay for a haircut.

Montana breweries producing fewer than 10,000 barrels of beer annually can only sell each drinker 48 ounces of beer per day. Most breweries keep track of on-site sales by handing each customer a punch card good for four 12-ounce pours.

Kansas restricts the ABV of beer sold in grocery and convenience stores to 4%. All sales of stronger beer are limited to liquor stores and on-premise consumption. Beer produced by a Kansas brewery must come in under 12.5%, but there is no cap for beer imported into the state.

On Sundays in Minnesota, breweries and brewpubs are the only places to buy regular-strength beer to go; grocery stores can only sell beer under 4% ABV and liquor stores are closed on Sundays (editor’s note: A law passed in early March 2017 legalized sales on Sunday and will take effect in July 2017). Also, if a brewery produces more than 20,000 barrels of beer annually (e.g., Surly, Fulton), it cannot fill growlers, period.

In Utah, beer above 4% ABV must be packaged in cans and bottles (no kegs) and can only be purchased at state-run liquor stores or consumed at a restaurant or bar.

By law, Mississippi breweries can’t sell beer directly to customers from taprooms for either on- or off-premise enjoyment (editor’s note: A law passed mid-March 2017 allows direct-to-consumer sales at breweries; it goes into effect July 1).

8 Comments

  • Joe Hell says:

    No one shall ever dictate my acquisition or consumption schedule. Period. I’ll make my own.

  • Mike says:

    Re: Beer in Utah. Your paragraph on beer in Utah is mostly what I’ve seen there EXCEPT one thing: the higher-strength beers DO have to be packaged in cans or bottles, but they are not limited to State liquor stores. Moab Brewery sells three or four varieties in cans and kegs at 4% like you reported, and these are sold in gas stations and grocery stores and tap rooms, but they also have “full strength” versions of their beers, and they are available at their brew pub, but only in their attached but separately-accounted swag store, which sells hats, tee-shirts, beer cozies etc, plus their four varieties in cans, both cold and room-temperature.
    They said that their little swag store has some sort of a liquor sellers license that allows them to sell those varieties there. The weirdness about it is that they won’t sell you any of it in the bar, but they’ll let you buy it in the little store (no distance-they are right next to each other) and bring it into the bar. Actually I think they’ll let the waitress sell you the stuff on a separate tab.
    Riding my bike in Moab beats me up enough that I’m actually fine with the “session-strength” beer right from the spout, I buy the “high test” to drink while sitting on canyon rims!

  • Mike A. says:

    Thanks Kate! Is this the whole panoply of tangled beer laws or did you save a few? I thought PA and MD had some funky ones, but been awhile since I’ve been on the East Coast….

  • Rhody Beer says:

    Newport is lovely in the summer! Norey’s will be hosting an OEC tap takeover in June or July just in time for the Newport Folk & Jazz Fests. Norey’s, Newport World Class Beer on Tap. http://www.providencejournal.com/entertainmentlife/20160412/noreys-in-newport-on-list-of-best-us-beer-bars

  • Bryan says:

    As of July 1, 2017 breweries in the Great State of Mississippi can fill your growlers and sell you their products.

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