Sales of 3.2 beer evaporate as the low-alcohol beverage becomes a relic – TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press

The Beehive Tavern, one of the last 3.2 beer bars in St. Paul, sits empty on a recent afternoon, August 9, 2017. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

It’s the last call for St. Paul’s only 3.2 bar, and the owner is ready to turn out the lights.

“I’m 75. It’s too late for me,” said John Weber, taking a break from mowing grass at the Beehive Tavern in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood. “There is no money in it anymore.”

The Beehive once was among dozens of Twin Cities bars serving the low-alcohol beer. But sales of 3.2 beer are as flat as a week-old opened bottle of Pabst, and Minnesota is one of only five states that still sells it.

“There is no money in it anymore, says John Weber, owner of the 3.2 beer bar the Beehive Tavern. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

That means the future of 3.2 bars like the Beehive is bleak. The low-alcohol beer is also sold in gas stations and supermarkets, where sales have been hurt by the recent addition of Sunday liquor sales. And tastes have changed, making 3.2 Minnesota’s most endangered brew.

“I have seen people come in here and then turn around and walk out,” said Beehive bartender Michael, who didn’t want his last name published.

The fact that such a weak beer even exists requires some explaining.

During Prohibition, the U.S. Congress tried to weasel out of a complete ban on alcohol. It declared that any drink with 3.2 percent alcohol or less could not be called an “alcoholic beverage” by law.

Overnight, bars selling 3.2 beer spread across the country. “It was the first step in repealing Prohibition,” said Mike Madigan, president and legal counsel of the Minnesota Beer Wholesalers Association.

When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, states had the power to

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