Almost a year ago, I blogged about Utah’s liquor laws, and the removal of flavored beers or “alcopops” from the grocery and convenience stores. At the end of the post, in response to this decision, I said:

“Never fear, alcopop lovers. The state store will be stocking the higher alcoholic content versions (read: a lot more than the 3.2% sold now) of Bacardi Silver, Smirnoff Ice and Tilt for purchase and consumption.”

Well, something happened to change that. Let me go into detail.

No more alcopops

The new law [which went into effect October 1, 2008] was designed to remove the temptation from underage drinkers spotting a wine cooler at the grocery store [which is just a clever way for lawmakers and teetotalers to hide their agendas behind the “protecting the children” mantra], while jacking up the prices that they would sell for at the state-run liquor stores. [the real reason for this “ban”]

But something happened after the bill was passed. The companies that make these beverages found a requirement that seemed a bit much. New labels needed to be put on the flavored beverages sold in Utah. These labels needed to state that such flavored alcoholic products contained alcohol. Huh? Come again?

Let’s see if I understand this. Utah tells grocers they cannot sell Smirnoff Ice and Bacardi Silver anymore. Utah then says these drinks will be available at their state-run liquor stores, which sell only products containing alcohol. Yet, they need a label stating these beverages “contain alcohol” for what reason? Once again, those who do not drink or who have never drank should not be making the laws concerning alcohol.

So out of the top three brands: Tilt, Bacardi Silver and Smirnoff Ice, only Smirnoff Ice complied enough with new labels so they could sell their product at the state liquor stores. They are the higher alcoholic content versions other states like Nevada and California sell. But their price went up. A lot. A six-pack of Smirnoff Ice went for $7.99 at the grocers. Now it’s $12.21 at the state store, which makes it about $2 a bottle. During my last visit to another state that sells Smirnoff Ice, the exact same six-pack sells for $6.99 at the grocery store. That’s an 85% markup. Ouch.

The company that produces Bacardi Silver [Anheuser-Busch] told Utah they would most likely not be selling their product here in the state due to the new label requirements. And Tilt, also produced by Anheuser-Busch, is not here, even though the label on the cans I purchased outside of Utah do clearly state they contain alcohol.

What part of “Contains Alcohol” is not clear?

What’s Available Then?

Ok, now I’m sure some of you may be asking, “Is there still alcohol left to buy there in Utah?” Sure there is. The grocery stores still sell 3.2% and 4.0% beer, some of the brands being flavored [the flavoring has to be part of the brewing process, like with Bud Light Lime], and the state-run liquor stores sell hard alcohol like vodka, rum, gin, wine and tequila. These choices are plentiful for any adult who wishes to imbibe. But my main complaint regarding the banning and new requirements for the flavored alcoholic beverages seems odd, especially when you consider you can get much harder alcohols without much trouble.

For fans of Smirnoff Ice or Bacardi Silver, you either need to pay the increased cost at the Utah state liquor store or take a 2 hour drive either east or west of Utah to get your wine cooler fix.

To see the details, here’s a news article from October 2008 that explains the basic changes: Utah first in nation to ban flavored beers