By Pat Brazzier

A law in Oregon, which has hampered sales of malternatives in the state, has been temporarily overturned.

In Oregon, tight liquor control laws dictate that spirit sales be limited to state-controlled liquor stores. Here, only wine and beer may be sold in grocery stores.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission's policy aligns with federal regulators' preliminary conclusions that most 'malternative' beverages acquire the majority of their alcoholic content from added liquor, not from malt. Therefore the sale of any 'malternative' beverages including Smirnoff Ice, Mike's Hard Lemonade, Skyy Blue and Bacardi Silver has been limited to liquor stores.

However, the Oregon Legislature overturned the ban early last week as Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski approved the policy reversal allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell 'malternatives' until December 31, 2004.

The move assures a prolonged row within the state's alcohol industry, where many critics want spirit-flavoured malt beverages to be classified as spirits and sold only in state-controlled liquor stores. But Kulongoski's office said the grace period is just a chance to let various parties prepare for an eventual permanent change in the law. Pat Brazzier is of P.A.S.H. Beverage Research