A new bill would put craft beers in grocery stores

For the past four years, Colorado lawmakers have put forward proposals — as regularly as that drunken uncle who never fails to show up for Christmas dinner — that would allow grocery stores or convenience stores, or both, to sell full-strength beer. And just as regularly, those bills have been roughly escorted out the door by craft-beer and liquor-store advocates who believe the proposals would hurt business.

This year, Representative Kevin Priola, a Republican from Henderson, wants to leave the drunken uncle behind, offering a proposal that he believes should make both sides happy. "I've tried to come up with something...the Goldilocks model...that is not too hot, not too cold, but just right — something that preserves the craft beer niche but also allows the supermarkets and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer."

Grocery stores and convenience stores are currently allowed to sell only beer that is 3.2 percent alcohol by weight (or 4 percent by volume). Priola's bill — which is still being written and should be introduced at the end of this month or in early February — would give those stores the ability to sell beer made by any brewer that produces fewer than six million barrels per year, effectively limiting sales to craft breweries and freezing out Coors, Miller and Bud. The largest craft brewery in the country, the Boston Beer Company (maker of Sam Adams), produces around two million barrels per year. Colorado's New Belgium Brewing, which is the third-largest craft brewer in the country, made fewer than 900,000 barrels in 2012; most craft breweries make fewer than 15,000 barrels per year.

The bill would also limit those sales to beers that are less than 10 percent ABV (which is the majority of them). "That's an important part of the bill," Priola says, "because the beers above 10 percent start to get closer to spirits and wine. I don't want to get into what liquor stores do and do well, but I do want to have a convenient way for consumers to buy full-strength beer when they're getting chips and dips."

Priola believes he has the support of grocery stores — although they would prefer to be able to sell all kinds of beer — but he isn't so sure about the craft brewers and the Colorado Brewers Guild; those organizations, as well as independent liquor stores, have vehemently fought against any legislation that would allow grocery or convenience stores to sell beer because they feel like it would severely impact their sales. "They listened...but the craft brewers seem a little nervous, and I can understand that. They see this as being the camel's nose under the tent," Priola says.

"I have spent a lot of time researching this," he adds. "You have to operate within the parameters of what is realistic. This should be a reasonable compromise."

Priola says he will probably introduce his bill in the last few days of January or in the first few days of February.


Seen and herd: Coloradans have plenty of run-ins with bears, mountain lions, coyotes, skunks, moose and elk every year, but only the very, very lucky ever lay eyes on a sasquatch. You know, Bigfoot. In hopes that the recent forest fires might have forced any possible bigfoots (bigfeet?) out of hiding, the team from Animal Planet's Finding Bigfootshot their most recent episode, "Bigfoot Merit Badge," near the town of Bailey — with the help of a local Girl Scout troop. As bait!

The show follows the exploits of Matt, Cliff, Bobo and Ranae — the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization — as they look for giant hairy man-beasts all over the country and on other continents. In this case, the team wanted to investigate local sightings, as well as study footage of a possible bigfoot from 1962. What better way to do that than by herding Girl Scouts into a confined area at the woods?

Did it work? You'll have to find out yourself by watching the show. We're hoping no cookies were injured during the filming.

Birds of a feather: Last Sunday's New York Times included an article, "In a Minnesota bog, a festival of birds," about the Fifth Annual Sax-Zim Winter Birding Festival, which draws birding enthusiasts from around the world to this cold, rural part of Minnesota. It also gave a shout-out to author and former Denver Post reporter Mark Obmascik, noting, "Sax-Zim got a reputation as one of birding's holy grounds in Mark Obmascik's 2004 book The Big Year, which became a movie starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black in 2011."

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