by Jason Lamb
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – You could see a wider selection of beer at the grocery store in the future, under a bill passed by the state house Monday night.
The bill had already passed through the senate, and it now awaits Governor Bill Haslam's signature.
But, you'll have to wait a while before you see more beer on grocery store shelves; the law doesn't go into effect until 2017.
The long delay was part of a compromise between the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild and liquor store retailers over the new law that changes the alcohol limits that define beer in Tennessee.
"Everybody kind of came to a compromise, there wasn't a bitter battle over it," said Linus Hall with Yazoo Brewing Company and the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild. "Everybody had to see what they could accept."
As of right now, while beer can be sold in grocery stores, a law limits the maximum alcohol content of that beer in Tennessee to five percent by weight -- anything stronger is required to be sold in wine and liquor stores.
Monday, the legislature approved a bill that would raise that limit to eight percent alcohol. That opens the door for some so-called "high-gravity" beers – beers with higher alcohol content – to be sold in grocery stores.
The original bill called for a 12 percent alcohol cap for beer, but brewers and liquor store retailers later compromised on the percent cap. Also as part of the deal, changes won't be implemented until the start of 2017 – six months after the first wine could be sold in grocery stores.
"We wanted a period of time that we could adjust to selling new products and without having to go back over and try to learn a bunch of new things, so we worked with the brewers association," said Bard Quillman, who owns Red Dog Wine and Spirits in Franklin.
Also important to note: even though the Tennessee bill measures alcohol amounts by weight, most alcohol sold in Tennessee is measured by volume.
The new eight percent alcohol limit by weight is about the same as 10 percent alcohol by volume.