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US. Utah beer co-op mourns loss of mini-kegs but carries on

Zion curtains hiding bartenders from public view are back, drink specials have been outlawed and, now, mini-kegs of beer have been banned.

The 5-liter, keg shaped Chubby, introduced to Utah in February, already has been pulled from most state-operated liquor stores, and no longer will be sold anywhere in Utah starting Oct. 1. Legislators took aim at the little fella by specifically outlawing any container of 5 liters or more.

Despite lawmakers’ efforts at reining in drinking habits because of fears of overconsumption, Utahns seem to like their beer.

Squatters and Wasatch Brewery, which produced the Chubby, is ramping up production to meet increased demand. The beer cooperative has added two, 200-barrel fermentation tanks to its production line. With a 6,200-gallon capacity, equivalent to 66,133 12-ounce bottles, these tanks will be dedicated to the production of the cooperative’s most popular beers: Squatters Hop Rising and The Devastator by Wasatch.

“We grew our sales about 20 percent last year, and we are ahead of that pace this year,” said Greg Schirf, Utah Brewers Cooperative managing partner. “These new tanks are the biggest fermentors we have ever purchased, and they will make a big difference in our production capacity.”

Last year, sales topped $7 million.

Still, the loss of the Chubby is “a heartbreaker,” said Schirf, who appeared before lawmakers earlier this year to make a case for the mini-keg. His arguments fell flat because the Chubby will soon join beer kegs, banned in 1990, as an illegal product — except for authorized beer retailers, such as taverns.

The Chubby holds the equivalent of 14, 12-ounce bottles, and unlike brown glass can be widely recycled. And although it is twice the size of a legal glass growler container, the Chubby holds less alcohol than a 24-pack sold at grocery stores.

17 Aug. 2011

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