Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kansas May Join the Modern World

One of the great embarrassments of the wonderful state of Kansas is Kansas University, that friggin' Jayhawk can suck my.. oh wait, that's not what I'm writing about. Let's start over, One of the great embarrassments of the wonderful state of Kansas is 3.2 beer. For those not steeped in the beer purchasing history of Kansas, Kansas sells a kind of demon beer in grocery and convenience stores that does not contain more than 3.2% alcohol by weight (4.0 ABV I had this wrong in the original post). Many Kansans, myself included, don't ever buy beer at the grocery store because of its inferior quality to liquor store beer. Just this past week, I bought a sixer at Cosentino's downtown and felt very strange about even though it was regular strength beer. I've probably bought* beer in a grocery store 5 times now and not one of those occurrences was in the state of Kansas.

*My first beer drinking experiences in high school took place because my friends stole beer from the grocery store where they worked. I'm here to tell you that you can get drunk from 3.2 beer, but only if you're tolerance is similar to a 95 pound teen.

It appears that a bill has been presented to the KS legislature to get rid of the 3.2 limit for grocery stores. Finally allowing Kansans to buy regular strength beer in the grocery. Kansas is only one of five states with the ridiculous requirement in place and will soon lose Colorado as one of its brethren as that state is scrapping the law.

As with all cases of government paternalism/intervention this law change will hurt smaller liquor stores that generate most of their revenue from big domestic beer sales. That is a definite cost to the legislation. But, to paraphrase Billie Jean, right is right. The state could maybe loosen some of the more strict rules regarding liquor stores. Perhaps allow wine/beer tastings on liquor store premises or something like that. No doubt some smaller liquor stores would close, but it would be better for the overall industry if we lose the stupid rules.


  1. A point of clarification. 3.2 beer is 3.2 % by weight, which is 4% abv.

  2. G'Day Bull,
    Long time reader - first time caller!
    Thanks for the link to the history article, it helps us foreigners to get a better idea of how the beer scene works over there.

    Hope the legislation still provides an opportunity for the smaller operator to survive. Can't have the big boys running the show forever, can we.

    In Australia every state and territory allows supermarkets, liquor stores and pubs to sell whatever beer their customers want to pay for.

    Some bigger breweries here are making 'budget' lines to cater for extra supermarket sales but it hasn't affected competition yet.

    Great blog - keep up the good work.

    Prof. Pilsner
    PS I think the Jayhawk thing looks a bit wimpy, too!

  3. I think the Billie Jean quote you are looking for is "Fair is Fair"

  4. Anonymous, I knew the correct quote which is why I said I was paraphrasing. I've seen that movie 100 times.

    Beer Blokes, I don't think you could ever understand our system of liquor distribution. Each state has its own rules and idiosyncrasies leaving an unmanageable national system.

  5. Owen posted the actual bill at Fat City. Best I can tell, the main change proposed by this bill is the redefinition of "beer" as containing 4% alcohol by WEIGHT.

    This means that cereal malt beverages (i.e. those sold in gas stations and grocery stores) can now contain up to 4% alcohol by weight.

    (As Andy mentioned above, alcohol is roughly 80% as dense as water. Therefore, multiply ABV by 0.8 to get ABW.)

    So really, this just means the beer at Price Chopper can be 25% stronger (and a majority of "good" beers exceed the 4% limit, so they're out). It still means we can't buy a corkscrew at a liquor store without going to the creepy "side register". It still means we can't buy wine to go with our meals.

    Missouri may as well be a parallel universe when it comes to booze.

  6. One of the most frustrating day-to-day problems with living in KS is always having to make 2 stops, one for dinner and one for something to drink with dinner or one for gin and one for tonic and limes.

    That said, I doubt this bill will ever pass. There is very little political capital to gain and to many special interest groups that like things the way they are.

  7. The beer is stronger in Missouri because it's too painful to watch Mizzou if you're not hammered.

  8. Blanche De BruxellesFebruary 2, 2009 at 12:23 PM

    I was bamboozled by the Kansas beer rule this weekend. Even though I live about one mile from Gomers Midtown, we were running late so I decided to just pick up some beer at the grocery store on our way to a super bowl party in Kansas. I stood shocked before the beer section gazing at A-B products only.

    I settled on the closest thing to a decent beer with the Bourbon cask Winter Beer from A-B. As the second quarter ended up I cracked open my fourth beer and wondered when I should stop to be preparaed to drive home. So I glanced at the label thinking this stuff might have been around 5%. IT WAS 3.2% BEER! I was never so devasted at a Super Bowl Party. I hit Gomers this morning and nearly openly wept as I relayed the story to the amused register worker.

  9. I agree the 3.2 rule is lame, but its not a huge difference from regular BLVD Wheat which runs about 3.4 alcohol by weight.