Last call: Utah is set to tap out on low-alcohol beer sales

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© Francisco Kjolseth 2018

Budweiser's iconic Clydesdales make a special trip to Utah to celebrate the changing beer laws in the state, joined by a "ghoulish group of pallbearers," Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, for a funeral procession for Utah's last remaining 3.2 percent beer, in Salt Lake City, as the state prepares to start selling 4 percent alcohol-by-weight in grocery and convenience stores starting Friday. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – The first change to beer alcohol limits since the end of Prohibition nearly a century ago is coming to Utah.

The state will become the next-to-last in the country to say goodbye to lower-alcohol 3.2% beer on Friday, when drinkers welcome new, slightly stronger brews to grocery stores, gas stations and bars.

Lawmakers have raised the limits to a still-low 4% by weight, yielding as large breweries decided to stop making lower-alcohol suds for a market that's shrinking amid changing laws. The change leaves Minnesota as the last state to have 3.2% beer.

Almost the entire country once had similar limits, said Maureen Ogle, author of "Ambitious Brew: A History of American Beer." It was set by Congress to allow lighter brews to be made before the formal end of Prohibition in 1933.

"Frankly, it's a very arbitrary number," she said.

Still, most states used it as a guide as they made their own laws. That started to change in the 1980s with the beginnings of the craft beer movement and gained steam after the year 2000. The last few dominos fell with Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas making the switch in recent years.

In the last remaining holdout, Minnesota Republican Sen. Karin Housley said she would "aggressively pursue legislation to modernize our state's antiquated liquor laws" during the next legislative session.

In Utah, the state's predominant religious faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaches abstinence from alcohol and strict liquor laws continue to hold sway. Last year, lawmakers passed the lowest DUI threshold in the country at .05%.