Where to buy beer

Posted in Society at 16:59 by RjZ

Colorado is one of five remaining U.S. states that prohibits the sale of normal beer in grocery and convenience stores. The 1933 prohibition law was enacted to limit minor’s access to higher strength alcohol and is currently hotly debated (for the second time) in Colorado’s state legislature.

A friend of mine owns a liquor store and he is very concerned that losing his monopoly on selling craft brews and microbrews will endanger his store and threaten the existence of the over 1600 liquor stores in Colorado, and I am sure he’s right. Even the state’s 130 or so craft brewers are opposed to the change in the law. Take for example, this well argued statement from Left Hand Brewing:

[The legislation,] if enacted, will create an oligopoly (cartel) of big box beer sellers and gas station c-stores in Colorado. Craft beer selection will be reduced and beer lovers will pay more for it. The added convenience of one-stop shopping in a chain or c-store store may not be worth the reduction in the availability of Colorado craft beer.

Indeed, grocery stores, headquartered in states other than Colorado, may not choose to carry Colorado beers and have no attachment to our local community. Well, I won’t say that these craft brewers and liquor store owners are wrong. I haven’t done the research and due diligence to make that claim, but I will pose a question:

The last time you were in a state which did not prohibit grocery stores from selling full strength beer, did you notice a limited selection?

Much as I care about craft brewers and want to trust their opinions, I am opposed in principal to laws and regulations, even those designed to protect things I like, if they limit our freedoms. And frankly, I am not so sure that this doom and gloom prediction is realistic. Liquor stores will definitely be placed under pressure. The ones that survive will likely have to carry exactly those beers that the “cartel” will not, and for that reason, even if they are fewer and farther a field, will still offer a service that the community desires. The grocery stores in other states that I have visited carried an ample selection of local and not-local beers, yet there were still a few specialized liquor stores around that carried more still.

The threat of cartels is a scary one, but as I wrote about some time ago, there’s no reason, especially here in Boulder, Colorado, to assume that we will lose our choice of beer. Whichever way this is decided, a friend made an apt remark while we discussed this over home brew: “isn’t it great that we live in a place where we can have a 45 minute discussion on the availability of beer? Life could be worse.”


  1. Chrissy said,

    April 4, 2011 at 12:18

    I’m pretty sure Nevada (where I grew up) has a good variety of craft beers in grocery stores, they have liquor too. The breweries will just need to form those relationships, right?

  2. Angus said,

    May 10, 2011 at 15:01

    It’s definitely a first world problem.

    I moved from Montana where you could go to a grocery store and buy food, cigarettes, full strength beer, and ammo and use them all before you got home. I didn’t notice an improvement in variety or cost coming here to Colorado at all for beer or wine. We drank more because it was more available.

    I am empathetic to those whose livelihoods depend on a regulatory structure in place right now. But I think one has to have a stronger argument against this one, particularly in the absence of *cough* actual evidence that it would have an effect. I think the distributor system we have now in Colorado is oodles more deleterious to consumer choice and price.

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