Legislature Passes Bill Allowing High-Gravity Beer in Grocery Stores

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After years of struggling to pop the cork for selling wine in grocery stores, consumers have a second reason to celebrate this legislative session after the General Assembly added so-called “high-gravity” beers to the mix.

The House voted 72-12 Monday night to raise the alcohol limit on beers grocery and convenience stores can sell, upping the alcohol by weight to 8 percent from 5 percent. The legislation would also allow craft brewers to sell their high-gravity beers in growlers later this year.

If ushered into law, the change to 8 percent would still tie Tennessee with Alabama Mississippi for the strictest alcohol content limit in the Southeast. Other Southeastern states limit grocery sales to brews with alcohol levels in the teens, or have no limits at all.

But like the wine in grocery stores bill, the law will have to ferment for years before buyers will see a difference. Under the bill, beer buyers will have to wait until 2017 to see their high-gravity selections in grocery and convenience stores. Pending voter referendums in each county, wine will be for sale in food stores July 1, 2016.

Since the Senate passed the bill on a 22-7 vote last week, the high-gravity beer bill now heads to the governor’s office for his signature.

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