Beer growlers clear early Senate hurdle

1:49 PM, Feb 13, 2014   |    comments
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(Tallahassee Democrat) Right now, when customers from out of state come to Proof Brewing Co., state law bars them from filling half-gallon jugs with fresh beer to take home.

They can fill a gallon container, or two 32-ounce containers, but right now state law does not allow 64-ounce growlers, a become the preferred size among beer aficionados around the country.

It's one example of the sometimes arcane alcohol laws, which arose after the repeal of Prohibition, that supporters of Florida's burgeoning craft-beer industry say make it difficult to market and promote their products.

Proof's owner, Byron Burroughs, has joined craft brewers from around the state to lobby for legislation aimed at helping the young industry grow, including a so-called "growler bill" approved this morning by the Senate Regulatory Affairs Committee.

Burroughs said that if the bill passes it would bring Florida's laws for alcohol containers more in line with those in 47 other states where the the half-gallon containers are allowed. 

Burroughs said the growlers allow people to bring beer home from the brewpub to consume in the next few days, and connoisseurs say the 64-ounce jugs are an ideal size ­- enough for two people to drink two pints each. Burroughs said that when events like Florida State University football games draw large crowds from out of town, "we could actually sell more beer to our customers that value coming in, and getting fresh beer to go."

Under the legislation sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, the half-gallon jugs would need to be sealed, to prevent people from consuming their fresh beer immediately or violating open-container laws. 

Past legislative efforts have foundered amid resistance from other branches of the alcohol industry who warn against undermining the long-standing three-tier system for alcohol distribution, in which brewers make beer and sell it to distributors, who provide it to retailers. 

Supporters say this could be the year the growler bill actually gains traction, and a House panel this week backed a more ambitious measure aimed at helping small beer producers.

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