Higher Alcohol Beer And 5 Other New Tennessee Laws That Begin Jan. 1 | Nashville Public Radio

Higher Alcohol Beer And 5 Other New Tennessee Laws That Begin Jan. 1

Jan 2, 2017

Click on the slideshow to find out more about the five other laws going into effect Jan. 1.

Tennessee brewers are working on some beers with a little more punch.

That's because of a new state law that went into effect Jan. 1. Craft brewers had been pushing the state to lift a restriction that they say had limited their creativity by placing additional licensing requirements on makers of "high gravity" beers.

"You can't even brew beer above 6.25 percent (alcohol) unless you have a high-gravity brewing license, which is essentially a distiller's license," says Jackalope Brewing founder and chief executive Bailey Spaulding.

The process had been difficult enough that few craft breweries had even bothered. The new state law lifts raises the limit to 8 percent alcohol by weight.

"So they're straightening out the alcohol laws in Tennessee now," she adds.

The term "high gravity" is complicated to explain. It essentially refers to the amount of fermentation that goes on while a beer is being produced. In general, the higher the gravity, the higher the alcohol.

That alcohol is an essential ingredient for fine beer, says Spaulding, because it balances out the bitterness.

"It's all about a balance of flavors and really building a kind of beautiful, full-bodied, nicely aroma-ed IPA."

IPAs, or India Pale Ales, are just one of the styles Jackalope hopes to brew more of, along with Russian imperial stouts, new Belgians and a seasonal blueberry beer that Spaulding says she's had to "dumb down" in the past to keep it under the old alcohol limit.

And these brews won't show up only in bars and liquor stores.

The new state law also allows high-gravity beers to be sold for the first time in grocery stores.