July 23, 2012

Growler Law | Heart of Glass

Back in April, BeerPHXation was the first to break the news that there was a change in the growler law. The change would enable Bars and Liquor Stores the ability to sell growlers of beer for off-premise consumption where this had once been the sole province of breweries. Breweries enjoyed a special relationship with customers though the growler and did so without legislative restriction. We wrote a little something about that as the language of the bill became clearer.

HB 2606 goes into effect August 2nd with a number of requirements on the nature of the container. We riffed a bit on how the language of the law specifies glass and would seem to preclude stainless steel growlers. (I've been told by at least two business owners that their liquor agents indicated that their operating rules would allow them. We shall wait and see.) I've highlighted the relevant passages in Title 4 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.

4-244.  32
c) A Bar, Beer And Wine Bar, Liquor Store, Beer And Wine Store Or Domestic Microbrewery Licensee Who Dispenses Beer Only In A Clean Glass Container With A Maximum Capacity That Does Not Exceed One Gallon And Not For Consumption On The Premises As Long As:
(i) The Licensee Or The Licensee's Employee Fills The Container At The Tap At The Time Of Sale.
(ii) The Container Is Sealed With A Plastic Adhesive And Displays A Government Warning Label.
(iii) The Dispensing Of That Beer Is Not Done Through A Drive-Through Or Walk-Up Service Window.
It's been assumed by most people in the industry that the current practice of using electrical tape to seal will be sufficient to meet the plastic adhesive seal requirement. The "shrink wrap" method uses a heat gun to tighten the plastic around the lid and technically there is no adhesion, only shrinking. So we are left with the actual container: clean glass, under 1 Gallon, with government warning.

To the letter of the law, I submit to you these examples. In most cases, I wouldn't expect bars and stores to fill them, but as we go through the list, you might see why a brewery would start to get nervous as all control over the branding is lost. Heck, I'd be saddened if I saw beer in most of these.

1) The Out-of-State Brewery - It says beer. It also says, "sorry we have no idea which brewery" and it's most likely not American Amber after the first fill. I didn't snap a pic, but it has the federal warning on the back.

2) The Father's Day Gift or "look what I found in Dad's fridge while visiting, let's go get it filled". Note: It's 1 quart, it has the warning label and it's cheap. If you weren't sensing the discomfort from a local brewery in the last picture, well, we're on our way.

3) The Wine is the New Beer. Impress your wine friends and re-affirm that high hopped beer tastes like skunks. It comes in half and one gallon government approved vessels.

4) The Bootlegger. Hey, it's glass and it screws on. High proof liquor makes sanitation a lock! I spotted this 1 gallon variety at Target. Coincidentally, some Target stores have the necessary license to to make this happen.

5) The Heinekener. Just like the "Wine is the New Beer", this one is a skunkifier. The Heinekener lets others know that we like to overpay for the illusion of premium. Comes in various sizes, screwtop, warning label and instant sanitation. Plus, who could resist a gin-aged IPA?

6) The Late 90's Homebrewer. This for all of you that took a 10 year hiatus to raise a child and want to get back into the hobby. Root around in the garage and you've got a literal bottleneck waiting to happen at the draft tower. Use this time to talk to other customers about how cool brewing is. Sealable? Perhaps not.

7) The "Alcoholism Doesn't Run in my Family, It Rides in the Passenger Seat". Sir, that's plastic. We can't use that even though it has a label and is clean and those little ones... Can I call you a cab?

8) The Hipster. This warrants no comment.

I've obviously taken this to an extreme, but there is a certain kernel of truth in each of these examples and you can see where those of us that care about the image of beer have our concerns.

Edit-- This paragraph missed the initial cut, but it's the point of the whole post:
The larger point is this. Before the law, the breweries would use their judgement as to what a suitable container would be. Invariably, it would be one that they issued with their branding on it. Now that a number of license holders can sell in growlers and they can do so without worry about branding, well. You're likely to see a great variety of glass containers filled.

Wherever possible, I will use a growler with the correct brewery's logo or I will use an unmarked government labeled growler.

It seems like a reasonable thing to do.


  1. What is an unmarked government labeled growler...the plain Jane growlers with no labels I'm seeing as unusable, since they have no legal marks....will there be a way to just put a label on them?

  2. 451

    Homebrewers often have growlers that are unmarked or branded. In many cases they are superior to the ones offered by breweries.


    Servers that I have talked to say that they are considering adhesive government labels.

    1. No idea why it used 451...it's me, Mike B, one of the home brewers who disappeared for a bit with kids and all that...

      I have a box full of growlers, some need those labels...hope that happens!

  3. I am wondering how placing like Whole Foods and Total Wine are going to make sure the growlers are clean? I mean a lot of people may have some funky growlers out there and regular dish soap won't cut it. In fact it may make it worse.

  4. A couple of comments...growlers are defined by Arizona law as glass currently. This essentially came about, according to the Liquor Board, because none of the breweries they spoke to when writing this law mentioned any other type. They will be open to including stainless and ceramic at a later date. There is federal law prohibiting refilling of any alcohol container that was packaged and sold as a retail item. This would preclude the wine, spirit and even liquor bottles shown above. The growler, realistically, may be identical to the one you would get filled at the brewery so it would be difficult to determine. However, it probably has a UPC and possibly some other federal labelling that may not be on the growlers sold at the brewery. That would make it distinguishable and technically illegal.
    As for cleaning growlers, most accounts are going to require that the consumer bring them a growler that is reasonably clean. I don't think breweries fill "funky" growlers that take extra work to clean now. I would imagine that all accounts filling growlers will run them through three compartment sinks prior to filling. If that is not sufficient to clean, I don't think anybody (on or off premise) will fill that growler.
    Finally, yes, many accounts will have a supply of government warning stickers to apply to growlers, however, I would be proactive and print my own so there are no problems.

  5. Thanks for the response Chuck. I hope to have the opportunity to collect the most recent thinking on this in a post before August 2nd. It still sounds like they are trying to make sense of a law that could have used more voices. I posted this on FB, but I'll repeat it:

    If there is a "reasonable person" standard in case law, why not approach the Liquor Board with "brewery industry accepted container".

    There are really only a handful of Growler types. Should someone decide to fill aluminium Sigg water bottles like Stone, then you could cite Stone and get on ProBrewer or the BA email forum and solicit whether it is an industry standard, If I recall, there was a fear about allowing Big Gulps and that's why we have the glass stipulation. No one in the industry is filling those.

    I applaud your training efforts and I know that everyone in that room will act it the best interest of the overall program. I mentioned that the places that know beer will respect beer and the breweries.

    This blog is a celebration and an admonition and it may sound like I am opposed to the program when in fact I support getting beer to the people. I just would like this new growler program to be successful. the law stipulates that there will be a legislative review in 2014. Just one 30 second segment on the news with beer filled in a Jack Daniels bottle could really put the entire law at risk.

    I've got a piece coming out in Food and Flourish Magazine on August 1 that explores the amazing potential of the growler. Hint. In AZ, the growler is the rockstar package right now and not the can.

  6. The liquor board is locked into glass initially. While a formal review will not occur for a couple of years, there will be liquor legislation introduced in 2013 (remember that the Growler Law was part of a larger st of changes adopoted by the legislature). At that point, if there are tweaks to be made to this law (i.e. stainless steel)then they can be made at that time. It should also be noted that, although technically plastic wrappers that are then heat sealed (via blow-dryer) are not an "adhesive" they will be permitted...not that anyone is likely to use that method.

  7. Regarding the Govmt labeling. There are very specific guidelines to that as well and they are different for a half gallon vs a gallon growler.

    In all cases, you must have the words Government Warning in bold. The remainder of the warning must be non-bold.

    GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.

    (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.

    To be on the safe side use at least an 12 point font. That will cover both half and gallon growlers.