The Real End of Oklahoma's Prohibition
In addition to our minisode covering The Real End of Oklahoma's Prohibition, we’ve asked Shea Gillock to author a guest blog breaking down the changes to Oklahoma’s liquor laws. Check it out:
How Alcohol Modernization Affects Oklahoma Breweries
It’s already been a week since the latest state liquor law changes have gone into effect. Some locals dubbed the historic day the real end to prohibition in Oklahoma. On behalf of the Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma, I will break down the changes that affect local breweries and, in turn, you – the Oklahoma beer drinker.
The Law That Changed It All
In November 2016, State Question 792 appeared on the ballot, proposing refrigeration of beer & wine and sales of non-alcoholic items in liquor stores andsales of wine & “strong” beer in grocery and convenience stores. SQ792 passed by a margin of 31.2% and thus began the overhaul of the outdated alcohol laws. 792’s companion bill, SB383, ironed out other details, such as hours of operation and required ages to sell alcohol. Though passed in 2016, these law changes did not go into effect until October 1st, 2018, which allowed time for all involved parties to prepare for the new regulations.
What’s New for Oklahoma Brewers?
1. Strong Beer in Grocery & Convenience Stores
Most of the excitement and news coverage around the new liquor laws have focused on the ability for grocery and convenience stores to sell wine (up to 14% ABV) and “strong” beer (up to 8.99% ABV.) Additional retail outlets mean local beer will be in front of and, hopefully, catch the eye of, more potential customers. You can now grab a six-pack of craft beer while simultaneously checking off your grocery list. With the ABV cap, however, you will still have to visit a liquor store or brewery for stronger offerings, such as imperial stouts, double IPAs, and barleywines.
2. Cold Beer
Local brewers are thrilled that retail outlets can now refrigerate craft beer. Refrigeration is not only an added convenience for the consumer, but will keep beer, a perishable product, fresh for longer, guaranteeing better quality control for local brewers’ products.
3. Family-Friendly Taprooms
Minors will now be allowed in designated areas of brewery taprooms, creating a family-friendly atmosphere that our association believes will be beneficial for brewery business and tourism. Please check with your local brewery for their specific rules regarding minors (i.e. hours and areas children will be allowed) before visiting.
4. Extension of Taproom Hours
Brewery taproom hours are now on par with bars. This means that, should a brewery choose, they can operate from 10 am to 2 am. While not many breweries are opting to regularly stay open this late, these new hours will allow for late-night special events and watch parties (just in time for Thunder season!)
5. Changes to Distribution
Another big change in the Oklahoma liquor industry is the switch from a four-tier to a three-tier system, eliminating the wholesale tier. Local breweries can now designate one sole distributor for their brand (per territory) or opt to self-distribute their products. This new system will give local brewers more control over their products and better representation in the market.
6. Farewell to 3.2 Beer!
The prohibition-era 3.2 beer designation is officially extinct. In addition to grocery and convenience stores selling stronger beer, Oklahoma brewpubs can now legally brew beer over 3.2% ABW (or 4% ABV). While several local brewpubs plan to keep some, or all, of their low-point offerings, others, like Bricktown Brewery and Prairie Brewpub, will start to introduce new, stronger beer or increase the ABV of their previous 3.2 offerings.
7. Wine at Breweries
Brewery taprooms are now permitted to sell wine for onsite consumption. Check with each brewery for their current selection!
8. Strong Beer Sales at Public Events & Festivals
Beginning October 1st, breweries gained the right to sell beer over 4% ABV at public events and festivals, with proper event permitting and brewery licensing. Look for local brewery booths at your favorite upcoming events!
The Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma is excited to see the positive effect alcohol modernization will have on the local craft beer industry. We anticipate a dozen new breweries will open across the state in the next 18 months and that established breweries will continue to see growth under the new laws.
Since this is an adjustment period, please be patient with not only breweries, but also stores and distributors as the entire industry navigates regulations & requirements surrounding the new laws. Brewers are working hard to ensure enough product is available for market demand and to educate retail outlets on their assigned distributors.
We hope you’ll celebrate the overhaul of the state alcohol laws with a local beer - whether purchasing from a liquor, convenience, or grocery store, or by visiting a brewery taproom!
Executive Director, The Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma
The Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma, Inc. (CBAO) is a 501(c)6 trade association dedicated to educating and creating awareness among legislators, regulators and the general public of the issues facing the craft brewing industry in Oklahoma, and to promoting a healthy economic environment in Oklahoma that enables public choices in the marketplace for the consumer, and opportunity and access to the marketplace by Oklahoma breweries.
For more information, including upcoming events and brewery taproom hours, visit www.craftbrewersok.org or follow CBAO on social media at @craftbrewersok.