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The future of 3.2 beer in Colorado

Stores will soon be allowed to sell full-strength beer, but does that mean the "3.2 beer" is going away? No, but you'll just have to look for it.

The brand is important, and so is the taste, but content matters most to Janet Lane.

“I especially enjoy a Coors Light because it’s 3.2,” Lane said.

Lane prefers low-alcohol “3.2 beer,” and she wonders how things will change January 1, after grocery and convenience stories begin selling full-strength beer.

“I worry about what happens after January 1 for people like me, if there are other people like me that like that lighter content beer,” Lane said.

Three-two beer - beer with 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, or 4 percent alcohol by volume - isn’t disappearing, according to Steve Findley, executive director of the Colorado Beer Distributors Association.

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“There are going to be lower-strength beers available and quite a few of them available,” Findley said. “It’s a trend now among brewers towards making lower alcohol, more sessional beers.”

Findley said Senate Bill 197, which passed in 2016, essentially changed the definition of what’s called a fermented malt beverage, or what’s commonly called “3.2 beer." That distinction is going away.

“Beer will be beer on January 1,” Findley said. “Anything 0.5 percent and above will be considered beer.”

Come January 1, grocery stores can sell any strength of beer they'd like - meaning they still carry 3.2 beer if they choose to.

For people like Lane, tracking down 3.2 beer may require a little more effort in 2019.

“I would encourage her to check the labels, check with the brewers, check with your retailers,” Findley said. “She’s just going to have to do a little research and figure out what’s in each can and she’s still going to be able to find that 3.2 beer though.”