Growler Gripes Prompt Reinterpretation of ABC Regulations


This past weekend, I bought a growler of Magnolia's Blue Bell Bitter at Bi-Rite Market. Once my 64 ounce swing-top glass jug is empty, I'd like to be able to refill it at say, Social Kitchen & Brewery or 21st Amendment Brewery. And although I haven’t been able to do so previously, I now could because California's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) regulations no longer prohibit beer manufacturers from filling growlers they didn't originally sell.

Joseph Tucker, executive director of RateBeer, recently started a Facebook flurry among beer geeks when he posted a reinterpretation of this growler-related statute by California's ABC. The legitimacy of Tucker’s postings have since been confirmed by Tom McCormick, the Executive Director of the California Craft Brewers Association. In a recent email, McCormick noted that “Growlers are currently universally fillable with the same regulations that apply to any container including bottles and kegs. Current ABC regulations require that the growler label contain the brewery name, location, beer type, volume, and alcohol, if over 5.7% ABV. Any reference to any other brewery that may have filled the container in the past must be obscured.”

Brian Stechschulte, the executive Director of the San Francisco Brewers Guild, added that each label needs to be approved by the ABC. He suggested, however, that a fill-in-the-blank label should work, “The brewery could make one standard label with blanks for the beer name and ABV. Then, when they want to put it on a growler, they write the info in the empty spots and submit that for approval. This could be done for each beer on the same type of label. Just fill in the blanks and send it off to the ABC.”

Growler fans here still hope for the day when we have filling stations similar to those in Oregon, but 'til then, there are still plenty of local places to buy and refill growlers with fresh craft beer:

Note: The first paragraph of this blog was changed after receiving a clarification from Tom McCormick. Thanks to everyone for their feedback.


On a completely unrelated note: This Saturday March 2, Healthy Spirits is celebrating
the grand opening of their second location, this one at 1042 Clement. The first hundred people will receive a free Healthy Spirits bottle bag and everything in the store will be 10% off from 11 am to 3 pm. Throughout the day they’ll be giving away beer, bourbon and scotch swag. In addition, they will have samples of their Rami’s Mommy’s line of
Middle-Eastern specialties, such as her homemade hummus and baba ghanouj.

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