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All laws are not created equal 

Ranger Rich

Today we'll discuss a big Colorado beer controversy that is brewing (ha-ha) over which establishments should sell so-called "low-alcohol" or "3.2" or "watered-down donkey pee-pee" beer.

Fact: Americans drink some 50 bazillion pints of beer each year, a figure that jumps to 52 bazillion pints if you count former El Paso County District Attorney John Newsome's typical lunches.

Anyway, because this is a serious issue we will keep the discussion on a mature level, refraining from juvenile comments, childish behavior and the telling of insensitive jokes such as this one:

Q: What's the difference between an Irish wake and an Irish wedding?

A: One less drunk.

I am just kidding, of course. I have great respect for the Irish, who drink more beer per person than any other people on the planet and firmly believe St. Patrick chased snakes out of Ireland with a stick. (Irish scholars say he actually chased the snakes with a broken Guinness bottle and a potato.)

But let's get back to the Colorado beer story. At issue is whether convenience stores and grocery stores should sell all types of beer. Currently, those stores may only sell beer with a lower alcohol content, which pretty much ruins the entire point of drinking beer: getting liquored up enough to endure an entire Colorado Springs City Council meeting.

(Sometimes it takes something a bit stronger. For example, when Mayor Lionel Rivera speaks, he is nearly drowned out by the sound of people lighting hash pipes.)

Some actual history: The origin of 3.2 beer (alcohol content of 3.2 percent by weight) dates to the end of Prohibition in 1933, when Congress ruled low-alcohol beer was no longer an "intoxicating liquor." Colorado sprung into action and on April 7, 1933, the Coors brewery in Golden loaded trucks with this weaker beer and headed to Denver.

From a Denver Post news story the next day: "The old-time beer saloon came back to Denver Friday, and thousands of devotees of beer drinking celebrated its return in a sudsy, sloppy inquisitive spree."

This has nothing to do with the point of this column, if there was a point, but the actual Post story also pointed out that women in the saloons "lifted the foaming beverage for all to see and downed it with gusto. One thing is a certainty, according to many who analyzed the situation. Women will not be heavy beer drinkers. Too much beer will make them fat, and no woman with a beautiful figure or one approaching beauty is desirous of losing it."

You just can't find that kind of writing these days. Unless you get the Gazette. Which, according to the local daily's circulation figures, you don't.

But back to the beer, again. Not that our state is a bit conservative, but only two years ago did the Colorado Legislature grant liquor stores the right to open on Sunday. But that law took exclusive Sunday beer sales away from the convenience and grocery stores, which for decades had a monopoly on a certain segment of the consumer market. Specifically, the segment that got too drunk on Saturday to remember that liquor stores were closed the next day. This forced these customers to hitchhike or ride their skateboards to 7-Eleven on Sunday morning for a case of 3.2 beer — conveniently located between the Slurpee machine and the $28 box of Band-Aids.

So for a few years now, the convenience and grocery stores have hired lobbyists who, in legal terms, "pay off" our legislators in hopes of getting a new law that would allow them to sell "full-strength" beer — beer that doesn't taste (and here I use the technical beer-brewing terminology) — "like it was filtered through a bum's undershorts."

They've not yet succeeded. But the lobbyists have earned at least some of their money by ensuring that regulators will soon start enforcing a law — yes, Colorado actually has this law — that prohibits bars and restaurants from serving low-alcohol beer. That way, the convenience and grocery stores will have less competition in selling light versions of brands like Amstel, Heineken and Shipyard — and maybe even fairly low-alcohol, full-strength brews like Murphy's Irish Stout.

Because I think we all agree on this: If there's one thing we won't stand for around here, it's a bunch of 3.2 beer-drinking sissies leaving the bars and clogging up our highway sobriety checkpoints.

rangerrich@csindy.com

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