Oklahoma has some of the strictest alcohol laws in the country. The state's constitutional prohibition on the sale of alcohol was not repealed until 1959, 26 years after the 21st Amendment was ratified by the States, and Oklahoma bars were not permitted to sell liquor by the drink until 1985. Currently, gas stations, bars, convenience stores and grocery stores may only sell "low-point beer." Licensed liquor stores may sell unrefrigerated "strong beer," but may not sell "low-point beer."
Oklahoma's beer distribution laws are what set the state apart from the other 49 states. Most states require brewers to enter beer distribution agreements (aka franchise agreements) with beer distributors and to grant each distributor an exclusive distribution territory. This system allows states to closely monitor beer sales for tax and consumer protection purposes, protects the distributor and promotes temperance (by keeping prices higher). However, the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Control Act (Act) requires an "open wholesale system." Brewers may not grant exclusive sales territories in Oklahoma, nor can they exercise much control over their products after they are sold to distributors (i.e. they cannot effectively enforce quality standards or sales standards to protect their brands). This "no-franchise ban" was not enforced until the Oklahoma Supreme Court handed down its decision in Adolph Coors Co. v. Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Control Bd. in 1978, when it upheld the law's requirement that brewers must sell to any distributor that wishes to sell its brands.
In response, Coors, as well as the other major brewers, withdrew all of their strong beer brands from Oklahoma assuming there would be a public outcry and demand for a change in the law. Surprisingly, though, the citizens of Oklahoma and the state's lawmakers never caved, but neither did the big brewers, until now. According to local retailers, the only real change is that AB is now selling a few of its more potent potables in kegs, not in bottles or cans. Apparently AB hopes that by extending this olive branch, the state will rethink its position. But, it remains to be seen whether other brewers will follow AB's lead and whether AB's gesture will move Oklahomans to revise their Act to allow brewers to enter into franchise agreements with distributors of their choice so they can exercise the control they claim they need to protect their brands. Stay tuned.