Many Florida craft beer consumers have looked forward to this day for years – the 64 oz. growler is now legal for a brewery to fill in this state.
This happened because of the efforts of the Florida Brewers Guild’s board of directors, who engaged in some give-and-take during this last state legislative session with the lobbying groups for the beer distributors. One of the end results is that the previously illegal half-gallon size is now OK to fill.
Though this legislation was supposed to clarify uncertainties in the law, there are still some unclear aspects on what is and isn’t allowed under the new law.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve sought illumination by having discussions online and/or in person with brewers, beverage attorneys, retailers, trade group reps, and knowledgeable consumers. What follows is a breakdown of the general consensus of these folks, targeted to the consumer. This is by no means intended to be legal advice and should not be interpreted as such.
First, here are the two lines of the final bill that are directly relevant to growler purchases by consumers.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of the Beverage Law, a malt beverage may be packaged in a growler, which is an individual container that holds 32, 64, or 128 ounces of such malt beverage if it is filled at the point of sale.”
“A growler must include an imprint or label that provides information specifying the name of the manufacturer, the brand, and the anticipated percentage of alcohol by volume of the malt beverage. The container must have an unbroken seal or be incapable of being immediately consumed.”
WHAT IS CLEAR
“A malt beverage may be packaged in … an individual container that holds 32, 64, or 128.”
Growlers can be one of those three sizes only. Previously, the law allowed growlers, cans and bottles in containers up to 32 oz. or 128 oz. or above (which covered kegs). This means odd-size growlers – 16, 22, 24 oz. or metric sizes – will no longer be able to be filled.
WHAT IS UNCLEAR
“A growler must include an imprint or label that provides information …”
The consensus among those I spoke with is that the “or” in this part indicates that a brewery or licensed retailer will be able to fill any legally sized growler even if it has the logo of another business on it, or no logo at all, as long as a sticker with “the name of the manufacturer, the brand, and the anticipated percentage of alcohol by volume” is affixed. A hangtag with the info might be sufficient as well. But because the law does not specify the form of the label, it’s open to interpretation.
“The container must have an unbroken seal or be incapable of being immediately consumed.”
This is the muddiest part of the new regulations because the law does not define “unbroken seal.” Methods I’ve heard include wrapping electrical tape around the lid, heat-shrink wrap or, if a swing top-type container, a zip-tie through the hardware.
Then there’s the “or.” A growler with a cap on it or a secured swing top is technically “incapable of being immediately consumed” – you have to open it first! So is a secondary seal even necessary?
What this boils down to is each brewery and retailer will need to settle on its own interpretation of the nuances of the law, and most already have. A few probably will play it safe and abide by the strictest interpretation by not filling other breweries’ growlers and ensuring there is a tight, not easily broken seal on each one sold. Others will use some combination of the methods outlined above and hope that suffices.
The best case will be that a standard method or methods will develop organically, and no one will run afoul of a state regulator and have to prove they were abiding by the law.
If you’ve been following this at all, you know there a lot more new and updated regulations involving the sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages, but they really don’t affect the consumer as much as those discussed. You can read the entire final bill here.
Again, remember that this is a summary of various conversations I’ve had with people in different levels of the industry and should in no way should be taken as legal advice. Please talk to an actual lawyer who specializes in this stuff if you have any questions, or post them on the Florida Brewers Guild Facebook page.
Regardless, a slew of special events are planned today at brewery taprooms across the state. The Florida Brewers Guild has listed a lot of them at its member breweries here on its Facebook page. In addition, there will be a Statewide Growler Toast at 6:40 p.m. to celebrate.