Archive for Sunday, March 23, 2008

Oklahoma upholds beer quality

March 23, 2008


— State liquor regulators don't want Oklahomans to drink skanky beer.

The Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission voted 5-1 Friday to retain beer quality rules that were opposed by beer wholesalers who argued it is not their job to help preserve the freshness of strong beer.

A spokesman for beer producers applauded the decision and said it reflects the demands of Oklahoma beer drinkers who expect to be served quality products. ABLE rules call for stocks of bottled strong beer to be rotated and refrigerated and that beer tap lines be cleaned regularly.

"We certainly believe it was the right decision," said Brett Robinson, president of Oklahoma Malt Beverage Association. Now that the beer quality rules have been upheld, Robinson said producers will insist that they be enforced.

"We believe the mechanism is there for manufacturers to say if you don't meet these standards, you don't get the beer," Robinson said.

Producers who refuse to sell their product to a wholesaler will not run afoul of Oklahoma's prohibition against discrimination in liquor sales to wholesalers as long as the beer quality standards are applied fairly to all, he said.

"We believe that if that standard is applied evenly, we're not discriminating," Robinson said.

Three beer wholesalers in Oklahoma City and Tulsa had asked the ABLE Commission to amend quality control guidelines for strong beer with an alcohol content of more than 3.2 percent by weight.

State law requires that strong beer be sold only in retail liquor stores regulated by the commission.

At an ABLE Commission meeting last month, wholesalers argued that competition should determine how wholesalers maintain their beer products and producers should not be permitted to tell them what to do.

But one beer supplier told commission members his company recently bought back more than $29,000 worth of outdated beer after finding hundreds of kegs and cases of beer that were past their expiration dates in Oklahoma wholesaler warehouses.

ABLE Commission Chairman Desmond Sides of Poteau made the motion to deny the wholesalers' request. Sides said there were not enough facts showing that beer quality control requirements are too onerous and expensive for wholesalers to comply with or are an attempt by producers to control the state's beer industry.


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