Brewers want Tennessee to redefine "high gravity" beer

Brewers want Tennessee to redefine "high gravity" beer

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Breweries and business that sell beer are looking to redefine what's considered "high gravity" beer in Tennessee. Breweries and business that sell beer are looking to redefine what's considered "high gravity" beer in Tennessee.
Linus Hall works with Yazoo Brewery in Nashville and says Tennessee's beer laws make it difficult for businesses. Linus Hall works with Yazoo Brewery in Nashville and says Tennessee's beer laws make it difficult for businesses.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Breweries and business that sell beer are looking to redefine what's considered "high gravity" beer in Tennessee.

In the last month, rallies have been held across the state to drum up support for a new bill to fix the beer cap. One was held Friday night in Knoxville.

The Craft Brewers Guild formed a few years ago with two goals in mind. The first was  to cap the beer tax at 17 percent. They won that battle in the state legislature last year.

This year, they want to redefine what's considered beer. Right now, anything over five percent alcohol by weight is in the same category as liquor, and they believe that's hurting business.

Brewers across the state are hoping to fix the beer cap in Tennessee.

"Brewing is an art when it comes down to it, and it's like telling a painter they can only paint in black and white when you have this whole pallet available to you," said Linus Hall, president of Craft Brewers Guild. "So being capped at five percent means if we want to make a beer like a Belgium style at seven percent, even if you go through all the challenges of making it, it's a very restricted market."

Beer in Tennessee is defined as anything containing five percent or less alcohol by weight, live many of the national brands, and they're allowed to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores. High gravity beers can only sold at liquor stores.

"The higher gravity beers, which now go back in a dusty corner of some liquor stores, they'd be right up there with all your normal selection. It would bring a lot of brewers into the state that don't distribute right now," said Hall.

Hall works with Yazoo Brewery in Nashville and says Tennessee's beer laws make it difficult for businesses.

"We view it as a business proposition to make it more friendly for brewers to set up in Tennessee, and better for more distributors to be able to sell their beer in places."

The guild hopes this bill will put them on the same playing field as surrounding states.

"If you look at all the states surrounding us - Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina have raised their caps, and some states like Kentucky and Arkansas don't have a cap at all," Hall said. "Beer would just be beer, and that's what we're trying to do."

Many of these brewers are watching the wine in grocery stores bill closely,hoping for an amendment that would allow high gravity beers to be sold along side wine. If that doesn't happen, then this bill would address the same concerns.

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