California’s craft beer growler issue may have solution in sight: Commentary


Grrr: Growlers and the storage issues they present are the bane of many craft beer fans.

Los Angeles County craft beer drinkers may soon raise their glasses in salute to a longstanding issue in the craft beer industry that could become a thing of the past.

Some county craft breweries will soon begin filling “non-native” growlers, providing a degree of relief to beer drinkers running out of storage space because they generally have little choice but to buy a growler from each brewery.

That’s because of arcane state regulations (one way to guarantee yourself employment security if you’re a bureaucrat, I guess) that many brewers interpreted (incorrectly as it turned out) to mean they could only fill their own growlers.

If you’re new to this longstanding debate click here and on the following two linksĀ  for more on this significant development in the long history of growlers that has its roots in a much-discussed workshop held earlier this year in San Diego for craft brewery owners that included speakers from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage control.

Here’s what the local brewers guild has planned:

“At a meeting of the Los Angeles Brewers Guild May 15, 2013, several member breweries revealed they have received (state) label approval for a new format of growler label and will soon be ready to move forward with filling growlers not native to their own brewery,” the guild said in a news release. “The guild unanimously agreed that the best course of action is for each brewery to begin these non-native fills at their own pace, dependent on their own label approval status and on the infrastructure at each member’s individual establishment.”

The growler debate is a subject dear to my heart as a dedicated drinker of microbrews and resident of a very small house.

Part of my growler “collection” — not that I want one — is pictured above to illustrate not only the variety of containers that is part of the problem for local breweries who want to fill the growlers of other breweries, but must first negotiate the state’s onerous laws, yet is also a major problem for folks like me.

We’ve got growlers stashed in the garage, tucked away in cupboards, balanced atop bookcases in our bedroom, while the handsome Hanger 24 growler (the one with the white top above) is displayed in the kitchen. And yes, while it’s nice looking I have used it just once, when my wife was attending a conference in Redlands (where Hanger 24 is located) and kindly returned to our Torrance home with said growler and its contents.

The fact our state’s alcoholic beverage laws provide a substantial barrier to breweries using growlers from other breweries is harmful to both those who sell them and those who buy them.

In fact, these days I think long and hard about buying a growler from a brewery I may have occasion to visit just once simply because of storage issues. And that hurts craft brewery beer sales.

“It’s damaging to the (brewery-customer) relationship,” acknowledged Guild President Jeremy Raub, who is also the owner of Eagle Rock Brewery, of the growler issue.

The guild’s press release observes that some breweries may not participate, choosing to fill their own growlers only (from a consumer’s point of view, I hope those breweries quickly find their sales suffer because of that stance and quickly change it) and suggests folks call ahead to find out whether a particular brewery will fill a non-native growler.

What do you think?