In The News

High Alc Beer Incites Legislative Furor

Many industry members thought that brewing high alc beer was already allowed under state law.  Nashville Brewery Yazoo held a liquor manufacturer’s license and had been brewing a high alc beer named “Sue” for some time.

But the law was not clear and a large brewery looking to locate in Tennessee wanted to clarify state law to specifically allow high alc beer production, before it spent millions of dollars to build a brewery in Tennessee.

Tennessee beer laws are unusual.  In most states and under federal law, beer is beer, regardless of the alcohol content.  Tennessee law caps the amount of alcohol in beer at five percent by weight, which includes almost all popular brands of beer.  Regular beer is sold under a beer permit issued by cities and counties, but high alc beer requires an ABC license.

In recent years, beer aficionados have been increasingly enamored by beer that is stronger than five percent.  This is a growth area for high-end craft breweries.

Seems easy enough.  But in the strange world of Tennessee liquor laws, the clarification about brewing high alc beer caused a firestorm.  Lobbyists descended on the bill and turmoil ensued.

During the final hours of the legislative session, an industry compromise was adopted.  Brewing high alc beer was specifically authorized under a liquor manufacturing license.  Tap rooms can serve pints and sell growlers of both regular and high alc beer.  The law is not perfect, but it legitimizes a practice that is vital to most craft breweries.