With the legal ABV-limit increase from 4% to 5% in grocery stores, Utah’s beer selection has gotten deliciously deeper.

Grocery-Store Beer Buying Guide

Beer & Spirits

Since the state moved to the 5%-ABV limit, we’ve noticed a significant change in the variety of beer in grocery stores, as well as the quality of diverse products available. Hence, we took a road trip to find the best beer selection that Salt Lake Valley grocery stores have to offer. Of note, the best of the major grocery stores were Smith’s, Harmons and Whole Foods—not in any order, but each of these stores seems to put a little extra care in the beer products they offer to their customers. With that, let’s explore how to navigate your local grocery store’s beer selection

Check the Dates

The nice thing about the beer in the grocery store is that it’s chilled. You don’t have to take it home and wait for hours or try the many YouTube tricks in an effort to drink it more quickly. You can crack that thing open right away. We mentioned checking the “best by” date or “born on” date in our “Liquor Store Beer Buying Guide” from SLUG’s 11th Annual Beer Issue in 2018. The same is true here. It may be just how the shelves are stocked, but we have come across 12-packs of now-5% beer with a “bottled-on” date in July or August. That’s several months before the move to 5%. We are not saying the beer is bad, but you may not be getting what you think. Just take a quick peek. Every beer in the grocery store is going to be better with a fresher date.

You Sure Look Familiar

When the state shifted to the higher alcohol content for beer on draft and sold in grocery stores, we saw many of the lower-ABV beers sold by the DABC get discontinued. The great news is that a ton of high-quality beer moved to the easy street of accessibility of the grocery store. Many of these beers are imported lagers such as Bitburger Premium Pils, Carlsberg Lager, Stella Artois and a good selection of Samuel Smith’s. This is just a small sampling of beer you used to know from a different time and a different place.

Find the Fallback

Once the fun wears off or you don’t have time to browse the aisle endlessly, you’ll want to have a couple options you can instantly fall back on at a moment’s notice. Lord knows we have drunk a ton of Uinta Brewing’s 801 and T.F. Brewing’s Kellerbier over the past year. You don’t always have time to let your frozen goods thaw while you look for that perfect beer you’ve never tried or the freshest on the shelf. Find something you love so you’ll never make a bad decision.

Build Your Own

One of the cooler things each of these grocery stores have in common is the build-your-own six-pack option. The idea is that you get to choose from a variety of beer without the need to buy an entire six- or 12-pack just to find out that this is not going to make your fallback list. To be honest, we thought this option might be where all the “old” beer was going with the last-ditch effort to get them out the door. Surprisingly, this is not the case. In all the stores, the dates were acceptable, and the sections were good. You can now build the perfect six-pack for a hophead and a lager lover. Perhaps the only downside is that the price ranges from $9.99–10.99, which would put this on the pricier side.

Sour Note

Here is an exciting byproduct of raising the alcohol limit. Many sour beers fall right in the 4–5% range, perfect for the style of beer they are. We found a great selection of gose, such as Cigar City Brewing’s Margarita Gose, Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale and a variety of Brouwerij Lindemans selections, such as the Raspberry Framboise and Pêche. These are all nice beers to have access to, as well as an excellent entry level to the world of sours. Be careful—if you love those fruited seltzers and you get hooked on these great beers, you may find yourself at one of our fine beer-bar establishments ordering that $100 bottle of Cantillon. Look it up!

Hey, That’s Cool!

It seems like every time we pop into a grocery store, there’s a new, cool beer to try, and for a couple of craft beer nerds, we can’t help but be excited by this. Whether it’s coming across Modern Times Brewing or Melvin Brewing for the first time, or if you see favorites like Deschutes Brewing and New Belgium tossing something new at us, we are like kids in a candy store. We probably look a little strange to the average beer drinker, as we carefully glance over the selection and inspect each product just to take it all in. Seriously, if you have the time, take a slow walk up and down the rows of beer and admire how much it has really changed in just a short few months.

In Summary

For our money, the change from 4% to 5% has been a good move for beer consumers. Big beer drinkers can grab their 4.2% Bud Light, and the rest of us can have an adventure down the colorful side of the aisle. From classics to new styles, build-your-own sixers to 24-ounce tall boys, and now we even have a greater selection of 15-packs to choose from. It’s a good time for grocery-store beer in Utah.