KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas finally abandoned a Prohibition-era rule that restricted certain stores to only sell beer with up to 3.2% alcohol content, but the stronger beer that's now allowed doesn't contain much more alcohol.
Kansas this month ended its law dating back to the 1930s, allowing groceries and convenience stores to stock beer with up to 6% alcohol by volume. Beer drinkers are unlikely to notice a big difference, because the outdated law measured alcohol by weight but alcohol is now measured by volume.
Chantel Fletchall, who handles brand registration for the Kansas Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said that a 3.2% beer measured by weight contains as much alcohol as a 4% beer measured by volume.
Popular light beers, such as Miller, Coors and Bud Light, are between 4.1% and 4.2% alcohol by volume. For a 12-ounce can of light beer that wouldn't have been permitted under the old law, it might contain just seven to 14 more drops of alcohol than the 3.2% variety.
Regular beers from the same brands have 5% alcohol by volume, which is roughly three-quarters of a teaspoon more alcohol per 12-ounce can than the 3.2% varieties.
But the change still helps brewers, according to Michael Uhrich, chief economist for the national industry group Beer Institute.
"When you operate a beer business across several states, it's always easier if you can produce the same products for sale in every state," he said. "Raising the limit to 6% alcohol by volume won't mean that every beer will be available in grocery stores, but popular brands will be there, and the brands that will be available will no longer have to be brewed exclusively for Kansas."
The law change that went into effect this month also allows liquor stores to sell more nonalcoholic products, such as shot glasses, mixers, lottery tickets and tobacco products.