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Will Anheuser-Busch move trigger a change in Oklahoma alcohol laws?

Full-strength Budweiser, Bud Light Lime Lime-A-Rita would be available at bars or liquor stores starting Nov. 1
BY NICK TROUGAKOS Published: September 19, 2013

Reversing a decades-old business strategy, the maker of Budweiser has decided to reintroduce some of its core strong beers into the Oklahoma market.

Anheuser-Busch recently posted prices for a variety of its core strong beers with Oklahoma's ABLE Commission for sale in the state beginning Nov. 1. Strong beers are those having an alcohol-by-weight of greater than 3.2 percent, according to ABLE.

The products, including Budweiser, Budweiser Black Crown and Bud Light Lime Lime-A-Rita, would be available at liquor stores or bars licensed to sell strong beer.

The move is being eyed with interest in Oklahoma's beer community. Some view it as simply a feeling-out process by the beer-making giant. Anheuser-Busch already controls several strong-beer brands, like Beck's, Stella Artois and Widmer, that are distributed in the state.

Others suggest the addition of core Anheuser-Busch beers like Budweiser could cause a domino effect that would lead to changes in state alcohol laws.

“What this means is that potentially some players with very deep pockets would now have a vested interest in the strong-beer market in Oklahoma,” said Greg Powell, manager of TapWerks Ale House in Bricktown. “People with deep pockets are generally the ones who get laws changed.”

Anheuser-Busch offered a simple explanation for its decision. Regional Vice President Keith Diggs said in a statement that “select additional Anheuser-Busch products with greater than 3.2 percent ABW” will be made available in Oklahoma “in response to consumer demand.”

Beer battle

The sale of strong beer from America's mega-brewers essentially ended in Oklahoma in 1977. That year, the country's largest brewers — including Anheuser-Busch, Coors, Miller and Schlitz — elected to pull their strong beer out of the state.

The brewers battled with the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which ruled that Oklahoma law required the beer makers to sell their strong beer to any and all wholesalers in the state. That decision was later upheld by the courts. The breweries objected, citing a lack of quality control over their beer once it went into the wholesalers' possession.

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At a glance

Beers posted

for Nov. 1

The following Anheuser-Busch products were posted with the Oklahoma ABLE Commission for sale starting Nov. 1:

Budweiser (keg)

Budweiser Black Crown (keg)

Bud Light Lime Lime-A-Rita (can)

Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita (can)

Bud Light Lime Cran-Brrr-Rita (can)

Land Shark Lager (keg)

Rolling Rock (can, bottle and keg)

Shock Top Belgian White (can, bottle and keg)

Ziegenbock (keg)


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