You know the ban on growlers in Florida is silly. Here we try to explain why the ban is so bad for the industry.
What's going on?
In Florida if you want to purchase a growler you are limited to two choices, the quart sized 32-ounce and the hefty 128-ounce "gallon" size. Unfortunately most of the growlers you probably own are the 64-ounce "half gallon" size. It is the most popular choice after all. A quart is good for one while a gallon is really for a crowd or more than one sitting. But the 64-ounce size is perfect. Four-ish lovely pints of your favorite beer from your favorite brewer.
Where did this all come from?
Before 2001, Florida only allowed the sale of 8, 12, 16, or 32 ounce containers. Those were the only sizes. For 35 or so years. In the 60's lawmakers in Florida didn't like it when Miller Brewing Company chose a Georgia town for a huge brewery rather than in Tallahassee like they had been planning. Competitor Anheuser-Busch and its lobbyists took this news and ran with it, and in short order a law was passed that would effectively ban the sale of the mega-popular Miller "shortie" from being sold at 7-ounces. Sadly this also limited a lot of imported metric-sized bottles and the oddly sized microbrews.
Lawmakers tried to turn it over several times, and always kept getting outvoted by those that sided with the beer wholesalers. Until 2001 when Sen. Tom Lee spearheaded a push to repeal the law. The Lee version helped by allowing the sale of beer in all containers 32-ounce or less and a gallon or more.
Now, with the 64-ounce half gallon sized growler being the most popular size for take home beer, practically an industry standard, the law is being looked at again for change.
Whats the latest?
A lot of changes have been brewing (ugh, terrible pun) the past couple of years. In 2012-13 a repeal was discussed but not even brought up for a vote, citing reasons that the entire brewing industry needed to be looked at before it could be changed. Many legislators don't want to mess with the three-tier system already in place. Unfortunately the smallest step forward brought about a huge step back when the Florida Senate passed a bill that equated any brewery that created more than 2000 kegs a year the same as a big brewery and forced them to first sell their product to a wholesaler before making it back to the customers.
Going to a brewery just big enough and trying to purchase a can or bottle beer at the source means it had to travel all the way to a wholesale distributor then be resold back to the brewery for consumption with a hefty markup. Detractors said it was killing the growth of craft beer and it was padding the wrong pockets. Luckily draft beers aren't under the same rules.
Now the rumbles and grumbles are getting louder. Bar owner Guy Piasecki of The Crafted Keg in Florida was suing the state of Florida, stating the ban is confusing to consumers and ends up costing the bars and breweries money because some customers think they are being deceptive. Unfortunately the lawsuit was dismissed saying selling alcohol is a privilege, not a right. Craft brew fans could be heard crying out in unison yet again. Even Florida's biggest distributors are getting behind the repeal of the growler ban. Either they are tired of fighting again or they have found another way to make money.
Most recently, two Florida legislators have filed bills to introduce the 64-ounce growlers. The action is heating up for everyone with the slightest interest in the matter. Maybe 2015 will be the lucky year? Brewhoppin will be in Tampa with our half gallons ready when it passes.
Florida isn't the only state having legal issues that hurt the craft beer industry. This is the first part of a continuing series looking at absurd beer laws across the country. Next we will take a look at Georgia's ban on beer sales to consumers at breweries.