The "big" November switch, and what it means

17 October 2019 Published in Haas Style Blog
Current 4% line up - going to 5% ABV Current 4% line up - going to 5% ABV

Our lovely legislature with all its infinite wisdom has decided to raise the alcohol percentage that is allowable for sale from 4% to 5%. What does that mean? Well let’s break it down.

These rule changes are for everywhere that was formerly under the 4% law. That is: grocery stores, convenience stores, and all draft beer. So this means that 5% is the maximum amount of alcohol that can be sold.

It doesn't mean that all beer will be 5% just as it was not that way when it was 4%. Some lite beers are and still will be lower than 4%. All the beer sold now though can go up to 5%. Most of the breweries in Utah are changing their recipes to accommodate this change, though not all their beers are going up to 5%. Some beers are supposed to be about 4% so they will stay. But some of the beers will obviously raise up.

As to how far that is up to the breweries and the brewers taste. Here at RoHa our 3 core beers are all going up close to 5%, for they are enjoyable to drink at that level. Is there a lot more alcohol? No. The flavor change from 4% to 5% is going to non-discernible. The effect of the alcohol on you body after one beer is also going to be non-discernible. A 1% alcohol increase in 12 ounces, is not very much. That will change with the number of beers you drink, obviously. The effect is cumulative. So the change here at the brewery is also quite slight.

It doesn’t take much to change the alcohol 1%, like I said the flavor change will be nil. The recipes have about 10-15% more grain in them, that's not a lot. The accompanied hops and bitterness are also slight. Overall not a big change to the recipes or overall beer profile. There is also not really any more beer style that can be made with a 1% change in alcohol so the styles of beer will not change.

I think the biggest changes will come in the marketplace. There will be a lot more outside of Utah influences pushing on our store shelves. Most of that push will not be of the craft variety. This legislative bill was pushed by the big breweries and they will benefit. There are a lot of macro beers at the 5% level, not as many craft beers at that level. So we will see a lot more mass produced beer in the marketplace. I think there has been a lot of hype about this change coming up on Nov 1st but most of it will be logistical. Stores can’t stock 5% beer until right before the change and there will still be a small amount of 4% beer left in the marketplace right after the change. This won’t be smooth. But all in all it is a minor change. Hopefully for the better but that is yet to be determined.

Bottom line, drink beer.