Say goodbye to 3.2 beer and hello to more options at grocery stores starting January 1.
Beginning January 1, you'll be able to buy full-strength beer along with your groceries for the first time in Colorado. This change comes thanks to legislation signed in 2016 that provided updates to Colorado's Prohibition-era alcohol laws, including "repealing the limit on the alcohol content of fermented malt beverages on January 1, 2019."
Currently, the only beer allowed in the state's grocery and convenience stores has only 3.2 percent alcohol or less. But you can ring in the new year by purchasing all kinds of beer, including popular craft beers with higher alcohol content, from gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores, and big-box retailers. You'll need to make your purchase between the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight.
The New Law
Even with this change, the law in Colorado is less straightforward than in other states. Many states allow the sale of all types of alcohol at grocery stores, including wine and liquor, but even in the new year, you'll only be able to get your wine on if you visit a licensed liquor store in Colorado. You'll need to purchase spirits from a liquor store as well, along with hard cider, which is legally considered wine despite its lower alcohol content.
There is an exception; grocery stores with attached liquor stores can sell liquor, which those who frequent the Trader Joe's Wine Shop should be grateful for. And the new law will allow retailers to secure more licenses for attached liquor stores, up to five for retailers that meet certain requirements. Before the new law, grocery stores could only obtain one liquor license in the state. Does this mean greater access to Two Buck Chuck? We certainly hope so.
When can I buy beer at the grocery store?
Colorado beer distributors are rushing inventory to major grocery stores like Safeway and KingSoopers, so you'll see a large selection available on January 1. Grocery stores have already begun preparations, making space and adding new refrigerators to accommodate. However, it may take longer for smaller retailers to obtain the products.
Why did the law change?
The new law took a decade to reach a decision point since liquor stores were concerned about greater competition and grocery stores and convenience stores contended that there was customer demand for the convenience of buying beer in their stores. The Beer Institute found that 29 percent of beer nationwide was sold in convenience stores, while grocery stores sold 24 percent. The General Assembly came to a compromise, leaving both parties only partially satisfied.
You can say goodbye to 3.2 beer for good, since brewers already stopped producing it. You may want to hold on to your old cans -- you never know what could become a collector's item.
While you'll see a lot of options from mega-brewers in grocery stores, specialty liquor stores will still be your best bet for the greatest selection, especially if you're a local craft beer snob. But the convenience of grabbing a case along with your chips and dip is something we are certainly looking forward to.