Growler Fills in Florida: Them’s Fightin’ Words!

FacepalmWe all know the law can be filled with forehead slappers. Such is the case for growler fills in Florida right now, with a nasty David-meets-Goliath sort of fight spilling over into the legislature, too. What we really see, though, is a form of legislative cronyism at its best (well, worst). Here’s what’s going on.

Right now, it’s absolutely legal to fill gallon-sized containers at Florida breweries (128 ounces). It’s also legal to fill quart-sized containers (aka bullets, which are 32 ounces). However, it’s completely against the law to fill the standard half-gallon growler (64 ounces). That sure makes a lot of sense.

As you might expect, brewers are wanting to get the nonsensical law changed in favor of allowing standard-sized growler fills. Their request seems pretty reasonable, right? Not so fast. Florida’s band of Anheuser-Busch distributors are utterly against it. And, they have the ear of Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R), who recently stated, “I’m with the beer distributors in my district . . . one of my very best friends is an Anheuser-Busch distributor [ed. note: he’s referring to buddy Lewis Bear] he never talks to me about his business. It’s always about what we are 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.” We give you the full quote so you can bask in its weird politician-y turn, and also its weird underlying logic. Brewers can already fill more, and they can already fill less. What’s the huge dang deal?

Evidently, Bear and his band of Anheuser-Busch distributors want to play a game of chess with the container regulation matter. In a demonstration of their magnanimity, they’ve suggested legislation that would (1) allow half-gallon growler fills for the brewers but also (2) ban full-gallon growler fills; (3) prohibit brewers from being able to sell carryout bottles, cans, and kegs; (4) prohibit brewers from having guest taps at the brewery; and (5) prohibit brewers from selling the beers they make in collaboration with other breweries! Thankfully for our Floridian comrades (and certainly Florida consumers, too), this proposed bill never turned into the real thing.

Making this whole matter even more more interesting, MillerCoors distributors are a-okay with changing the law to allow half-gallon growler fills. Notably, too, Anheuser-Busch has emerged as a good guy, distancing themselves from their distributors by saying they’re totally cool with deregulating the container sizes. All this in a state that had just 6 breweries only a handful of years ago (now 50 with 28 more on the way). We hope this tiff leads to a logical result.

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