It's a syndrome you'll see across this land. Every fan of quality beer, wine, or spirits can instantly and eagerly point out some aspect of their home state's laws on alcoholic-beverage sales, production, or distribution. Pennsylvania: the "state store" system and the case law. Maryland: almost no grocery or convenience stores can sell booze. Virginia: State Stores. Keg registrations. Prohibitions against Sunday sales, or beverages over a certain strength. The various regulations mandating that booze be served only in "private clubs" or restaurants. Prohibitions against listing strength of beer on beer bottles, while it's required on spirits and wine.
As the happy-hour crowd began trickling into The Celtic Tavern on Tuesday night, bar owner Patrick Schaetzle — flanked by placards and mirrors touting Murphy's Irish Stout — got some unsettling news.
Sometime next year bars will have to stop selling his Lower Downtown pub's signature stout along with an array of other beers that are lower alcohol. The looming restrictions flow from a bitter, three-year battle between liquor and convenience stores over who can sell full-strength beer.
Schaetzle and a number of his similarly shocked patrons pointed out that both waistlines and blood-alcohol levels could suffer as a result of banning low-alcohol — read, low-calorie — beers from taverns and restaurants.
State liquor regulators continue to hammer out guidelines meant to ensure everyone from the brewers down to the retailers follow the rules.
Beermakers will have to test their suds and submit an affidavit stating their alcohol content to authorities.
Once enforced, the rules will likely shut off taps of lighter versions of brands like Shiner, Amstel, Heineken, Yeungling, Michelob and Shipyard among others. Light versions of the big three — Coors, Budweiser and Miller — appear to have just enough alcohol to remain flowing.
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