Cars with Utah license plates start rolling into Evanston convenience stores by at least 2 p.m. on most days. But these customers are not shopping for a sandwich or a tank of gasoline.

Rather, they are loading their trunks with cases of Wyoming beer, with the unshaking belief that Wyoming beer has a much better taste and higher alcohol content - 6 percent, most will tell you - all at the same price they would pay for watered-down Utah beer."It's a myth. A persistent one, but it's just not true," says Kenneth Winn, director of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. "People who drive to Wyoming are quite simply wasting their money on gas."

Well, not entirely. There is a difference, but state officials maintain the alcohol content of beers sold in Wyoming and other Western states contains only about one-half of 1 percent more alcohol - hardly worth the gas money getting there.

Brewery officials agree, maintaining they brew to a national standard that ranges from 3.6 to 3.9 percent alcohol by weight. Special 3.2 percent beers are brewed for Utah and Oklahoma consumers. Alcohol content can vary on any given day and by any given batch. "We don't brew for alcoholic content but for taste," explained Barry Moffett, a spokesman for Miller Brewing Co.

Utah's law mandates that beers sold here contain no more than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, but state liquor officials don't get overly concerned if beers come in slightly higher or lower. Currently, there is no system in place to routinely test the beer sold in Utah stores.

So where does the idea come from that Wyoming beers contain 6 percent alcohol and are therefore almost 2-to-1 stronger than Utah's 3.2 beers? Perhaps from the antiquated slang associated with the subject.

Wyoming beer has always been about 3.6 percent alcohol by weight, but in beer parlance, the brews came to be known as "six-point" beers. It also became known as "6 percent" beer.

"I don't know of anyone in the industry who brews 6 percent beers," said Janet Rowe, spokeswoman for Adolf Coors Co. "Or even anything close to it."

The real difference between Wyoming's 3.6 percent beers and Utah's 3.2 percent beers? The alcohol equivalent of one can of beer per case of 24, says Earl Dorius, director of licensing and compliance for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. "A long drive for one can of beer."

Still, the myth persists, and state alcohol officials are concerned over the common practice of bootlegging Wyoming beer to Utah, not just because of the lost tax revenue but because of the regularity of fatal accidents associated with those making the run to Evanston. Many of those involved in fatal accidents have been drinking.

The problem of bootlegging might be reduced if brewing companies ultimately win a federal court case against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Brewers are trying to win the right to list alcohol content on beer containers; the federal government has maintained that listing alcohol content on beer cans and bottles would lead to alcohol strength wars and increased alcoholism.

The only beers that currently display alcohol content are 3.2 beers sold in Utah and elsewhere.

"There is so much confusion out there about how much alcohol is contained in beer," Rowe said. "And the bottom line is the consumer cannot make that determination. We believe it is a consumer's right to know the contents of any product" and thereby better judge their behavior.

Ironically, all wine and hard liquors are required by federal law to list alcohol content. But beer brewers are prohibited from it.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that alcohol content of beers varies from brewer to brewer and from brand to brand within the same brewery. For example, Miller Brewing Co. brews its regular beers to a 3.7 percent alcohol by weight; Anheuser-Busch Co. brews its Budweiser and Michelob brands to 3.8 percent.

Rowe said Coors brews to a variety of different standards: Coors Lite is 3.3 percent by weight; original Coors, 3.6 percent; Coors Dry, 3.9 percent; Extra Gold is 3.9 percent; Killian Red 3.9 percent; and Keystone beers are 3.7 percent. Keystone Lite actually comes in at 3.2 percent.

"We're not talking huge differences in alcohol content for those sold throughout the nation and those sold in Utah," Rowe said.

In addition, there seems to be a growing national preference for lower-alcohol beers. That preference has prompted Miller Brewing Co. to market 3.2 percent beers in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and Kansas.

The whole issue of alcohol content in beer has become a national issue. On one hand are public safety, consumer organizations and some brewers who believe that alcohol content of beers should be listed. Federal courts earlier this year agreed, striking down a post-Prohibition law that prohibited the listing of alcohol content on beer containers.

The Adolf Coors Brewing Co. filed suit to overturn the law and the courts agreed, stating, "We find that the government has offered no evidence to indicate that the appearance of factual statements of alcohol content on malt beverage labels would lead to strength wars."

The Department of Justice has appealed the ruling, though the ATF has begun drafting regulations for the alcohol labeling of beers.