Thursday, March 27, 2014

The beer biz: Not so grrrr-eat

The beer wars rage on, as the Legislature debates the state of the 64-ounce growler.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 1:39 PM

Craft beer supporters were breathing a little easier this week after a bill that would legalize 64-ounce growlers passed a House committee. The bill, which was approved by the House Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee, would allow beer growlers (the reusable bottles filled at the tap at craft brewers’ tasting rooms) in any size.
click to enlarge GROWLER IN THE ROUGH: The battle continues in Florida over reusable beer bottles. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • GROWLER IN THE ROUGH: The battle continues in Florida over reusable beer bottles.

Last December, Mitch Rubin, the leader of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, which represents the major beer distributors in Florida, told CL that the only thing he wanted in return for agreeing to support 64-ounce growlers in brew pubs was legislation that would prevent craft brewery tasting rooms from selling beer not brewed on their premises.

But the House legislation allows unlimited guest taps.

As has been well-documented, Florida stands out as one of only three states in the union that don’t allow the sale of 64-ounce growlers. The state allows 32-ouncers and 128-ouncers. But the 64-ounce containers are verboten.

While the craft brewing industry continues to ascend in the Sunshine State, local brewpubs want to add the 64-ounce growler to their arsenal.
The question now, with only a month to go before the legislative session ends, is whether the House bill will match up with a measure in the state Senate that is much more prohibitive to craft brewers.

Specifically, while SB 7120 would legalize 64-ouncers, it would prohibit breweries from selling the 128-ounce size. The bill would also make it illegal for breweries to fill growlers of their own beer if it was brewed at another location, known as collaborative beers in industry parlance.
Beer distributors and their allies say that they’re okay with collaborative beers being sold by a craft brewery, but contend that such products can only be sold at the specific brewery in which they were produced.

Another part of the bill brings up health restrictions. According to craftbeer.com, a website representing the interests of small and indie brewers, the bill would also “make it illegal for specialty beer shops that are subject to inspection by the Health Department to sell growlers but protects liquor stores that are not required to be inspected by the Health Department.”

“It’s incredibly punitive,” complains Josh Aubuchon, executive director of the Florida Brewers Guild. “The points we’ve gotten from the distributors about what they have a problem with aren’t addressed by any of these bills.”

Craft beer aficionados certainly couldn’t be pleased to learn from an Associated Press story that Senate President Don Gaetz says he will support whatever Anheuser-Busch InBev distributor Lewis Bear tells him to do.

“I’m with the beer distributors in my district,” Gaetz was quoted as saying by the AP’s Brendan Farrington earlier this month. “That’s a very important issue because one of my very best friends [Bear] is an Anheuser-Busch distributor and he never talks to me about his business. It’s always about what are we going to do for disabled children, what are we going to do for the arts, what are we going to do for economic development. But this time he’s talking about growlers.”

There are still weeks left in the session — and anything can still happen to this bill. 

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