Late word coming through various channels today complaining that the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) sent out an advisory to all wine and beverage licensees that they are prohibited from selling beers whose alcohol levels exceed 12-percent by weight (or 15-percent by volume). The advisory statement stems from a state law that defines malt beverages, in relevant part, as those products made with malt or cereal grains and fermentable sugars, resulting in alcohol levels less than 12% ABW. A beer exceeding this threshold is no longer classified as a malt beverage in Massachusetts, the practical effect of which prohibits many licensees who lack a liquor license from selling these products.
The advisory appears on the ABCC’s website.
Due to other, unrelated legal work, I haven’t had a chance to review the advisory or its legal underpinnings, including the General Law on which it is based. I hope to have something written up after I finish reviewing the materials. Until then, no Utopias for you…
Quick Update: I took a quick read of the statute and the administrative codes and it’s a bit of an oddity the legal status of beers whose alcohol levels exceed 12-percent ABW. They are indeed no longer considered malt beverages under the law and therefore cannot be sold by certain licensees (both on and off-premise) who only possess a beer and wine license. On the other hand, the law does not appear to preclude their sale within the Commonwealth to establishments that possess full alcoholic beverage licenses. So this is not a Pop the Cap situation, more like a share the wealth complaint.
As local distributors scramble to take back expensive Utopias purchases, looks like the pool of available high-alcohol beers just grew a little for enterprising stores and bars.
Another interesting sidenote is how this advisory will affect beer festivals in the state. The venues hosting the events would conceivably be required to possess a full alcohol license before allowing attendees to pour high-alcohol beers at their locations.