Utah disposes of 275 cases of beer worth nearly $18,000. Why? Because the law says so.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A glass recycler crushes beer bottles as the DABC delivers 275 cases of beer on three pallets to the new food digester in North Salt Lake on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. The state can no longer sell the beer — all between 4% and 5% ABV — because it can't compete with privately-owned grocery and convenience stores which started selling the higher alcohol brews on Nov. 1.

North Salt Lake • The state agency charged with distributing and selling alcohol in Utah has disposed of thousands of gallons of drinkable beer worth almost $18,000.

On Friday — which was the unlucky 13th for people who hate to see beer get tossed — the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control transported 275 cases of bottles and cans from its Salt Lake City warehouse to Wasatch Resource Recovery in North Salt Lake. The products, DABC officials say, could no longer be sold in state-run liquor stores because of a new law that took effect in November.

Once the DABC shipment arrived, crews at the Davis County facility put the glass bottles through a depackaging process, sending the liquid ales and lagers into an aerobic digester — where they will mix with other food waste — and eventually be turned into natural gas and fertilizers.

The aluminum cans go through a similar process, said sustainability manager Morgan Bowerman. And all the empty packaging will be recycled.

“If you can’t buy it and you can’t drink it,” she said, “this is the best place for it.”

What prompted Friday’s beer purge? Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the details:

4% to 5% • A new state law took effect Nov. 1 that raised the alcohol cap on beer sold in grocery and convenience stores to 5% alcohol by volume. That’s up from the 4% ABV — or 3.2% by weight — a limit that had been in place for nearly a century. The new law also changed what beer is sold in liquor stores. From now on, the state-run outlets sell only beer that is 5% ABV or above.

106 • As the new law’s effective date neared, the DABC was forced to discontinue 106 beers that soon would move to the retail outlets. Liquor stores marked down some of the products, hoping to sell them before the switch.

275 • About 275 cases of the discontinued beer — about 6,600 bottles and cans — remained on liquor store shelves as of Nov. 1. The DABC no longer could sell the products because that would put them in competition with private industry. It also could not return the beer for credit, because distributors legally cannot take back products.

$17,700 • DABC officials said the only option was to dispose of the beer, which cost $10,000 to buy but would have brought in $17,700 if it had sold in liquor stores. While that may seem like a waste of taxpayer dollars — it’s a fraction of the $479 million the liquor agency collected last year in alcohol sales.

3 • The number of compliance officers from the DABC who traveled with the beer to Davis County to ensure it was disposed of properly.

120 • The number of minutes it took to dump all the cases, which included several popular brands such as Blue Star, Carlsberg, Corona, Orion, Sam Adams Light, St. Pauli Girl, Stella Artois, Sapporo and Sesión Cerveza.

24 • The beer that was sent to the food digester on Friday “is a small amount compared to other shipments coming in,” Bowerman said. A Utah soda distributor, for example, delivers “24 pallets or more every day” to the facility.

350 • When the digester is at full capacity — possibly by year’s end — it will take in 350 tons of food waste each day from Utah food manufacturers, grocery stores, restaurants and, yes, even brewers. The latter often have to dispose of expired or unsellable batches of beer. Friday’s dump carried a more yeasty-beer aroma than the typical smell of food waste.

0 • Unlike the DABC, Utah grocery and convenience stores can continue to sell any 4% ABV beer they have in stock, so the amount of beer retail outlets will have to get rid of is zero.