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Growlers Initiate Legal Change For Florida Craft Beer Industry

Mashing In
Swamp Head Brewery, Beer Connoisseur Magazine, Florida Growler Bill
Photo courtesy of Swamp Head Brewery.

FBG Beer, Beer Connoisseur Magazine, Florida Growler BillIt wasn’t until this week that Florida residents could legally fill 64-ounce growlers. In fact, the state didn’t even recognize the word “growler” until Governor Rick Scott signed SB 186 that legalized the container size. Brewery visitors could fill 32-ounce or 128-ounce containers, but nothing in between.

“A growler is a 64-ounce container around the whole country,” said president of the Florida Brewers Guild Mike Halker, who pointed out that Florida is the last of all 50 states to legalize the growler. “This was a ridiculous and archaic thing that we just wanted to get out of the way so we can focus on other legislation that impacts the state’s craft breweries. There are more important aspect to this bill beyond growlers.”

Perhaps the most important aspect of this bill was the removal of the “tourism exception” that stated that a brewery could operate a tasting room only if it promoted Florida tourism. “Anyone who has visited a Florida brewery knows that they attract tourists already, without the need for thrill rides,” said a Floridacraft.com article about beverage-related bills to watch in this year’s legislative session.

“We wanted clarification for how we qualified as tourist attractions,” added Halker about SB 186, also known as the “Beer IS Tourism” act. “This new law says that a manufacturer can have a vendor license, so the state can’t take our tasting rooms away. This is a very symbolic law that brings awareness— nobody’s business will be affected, but at the same time it’s something we’ve been trying to accomplish for a long time.”

The Beer IS Tourism Act is only step one in changing Florida’s laws to best accommodate the state’s growing craft beer culture, Halker explained, and there is a lot more work to be done. “Each brewery is now limited to eight licenses for tasting rooms, for example, and state laws have a transfer limit that creates challenges for breweries with two locations. Not to mention our three-tier system doesn’t allow for self-distribution. These stipulations really affect the craft industry, and we’ll be dealing with them in future.”

On July 1 when SB 186 takes effect, The Florida Brewers Guild will join the state’s craft breweries in Toast the Growler events to be scheduled across the state. Stay tuned for these event postings on the FBG Facebook page.