Colorado Banned Session Beers from Bars?


After ample discussion in the most recent episode of the antiquated liquor laws, I decided to take a look at other states with more absurd laws on the books regarding the sale and consumption of spirited beverages.

Without a lot of research I stumbled on this gem from Colorado: restaurants and bars are forbidden by law from selling beers under 4% ABV!

This situation is a result of a bitter battle between liquor stores and convenience marts and is claiming collateral damages; namely bars who can not sell session beers. In a legal battle so stupid it could only happen in America, Colorado’s state liquor enforcement officers are threatening to cite bars selling beers under four percent alcohol by volume.

Colorado spirits laws lump bars, restaurants, and liquor stores into a single category allowing them to sell only hard liquor, wines, and malt beverages.  Under Colorado law none of these can sell beers under the malt beverages four percent alcohol by volume.  Conversely, convenience marts and similar establishments are limited by law in selling session beers; those under the 4% ABV limit.

While malt beer is colloquially defined as beers of high alcohol content most legal definitions of the term include any beers over five percent alcohol by volume.  It is essentially the opposite of session beers.

The battle between liquor stores and convenience marts is over who can sell what beers within the Coloradan state boundaries.  Liquor stores are legally only allowed to sell malt beverages, but some of the nation’s best selling beers are light versions of the mass market beers made in America; Coors Light, Bud Lights, and Miller Light.  Not content to pass on the profits reaped from the sale of these lighter American lagers the liquor stores, flaunting established statute, sold these session options to consumers regardless of the alcohol by volume rating.

Convenience stores, unhappy with liquor stores cutting into their own sales and thwarted from passing legislation from selling malt beers, fired back by amending a bill requiring that liquor enforcement be following to the exact letter of the law.  While this certainly stopped liquor stores from selling session beers the side effect on bars and restaurants are absurd.

This change in legislation means that consumers at bars and restaurants are forced to drink beers higher in alcoholic content by law.  The exact opposite, many would argue, of the role of alcohol legislation.

Convenience store owners in Colorado want the dual definition of beers to be unified and liquor stores forced to sell only wine and liquor.

The sad state of Colorado’s legal fight is that no progress was made on this front since 2010.  Proof positive that democracy is the worst form of government, besides all the other forms of government.

We at the Blind Tiger might find it horribly absurd that if visiting Colorado we would be unable to enjoy lighter beers while at a bar or restaurant.  While this isn’t usually an issue in the beers we drink, occasionally you want to drink something lighter.

With it’s odd liquor laws, at least Pennsylvania doesn’t stand alone.