Look in the kitchens and closets and home bars of California beernoscenti, and you'll see rows of brown or green glass bottles emblazoned with the names of California's many craft breweries. I myself have a growler from nearly every brewery in Orange County, and they sit on a shelf in my kitchen, where the only thing keeping them from falling in an earthquake is the assertion (erroneously attributed to Benjamin Franklin) that beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
Why so many? Because in California, the rule is that brewers can only fill growlers with their own approved label on them; you can't buy a regular brown jug and have it filled wherever you happen to be, and you certainly can't put, say, Bruery beer in a Noble Ale Works growler.
Well, that's about to change. According to a sharp-eyed contributor to BeerAdvocate
, California's Director of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Jacob Appelsmith, has given updated instructions to the local field offices regarding the filling of the one- and two-liter glasses.
Here's the skinny: you can't put one brewery's beer in a growler labeled for another, and you have to have all of the required information (brewery name, beer name, ABV if above 5.9%, and the surgeon general's warning) on a label you've previously registered with the state. It can be, as BeerAdvocate asserts, Sharpie on duct tape, as long as it's registered with the state.
So, theoretically, you could own a generic brown growler with the surgeon general's warning on it, bring it to your local brewery, and they could put a fancy sticker on the (disposable) cap with the required information. Or if you're like me, and you have a shelf full of growlers, your local brewery could sell growler covers with the approved label on them.
Between this and the proposal to extend last call until 4 a.m., California is finally getting back to its permissive Western roots and shuffling off at least a tiny bit of the nanny-state mentality.
Incidentally, Alesmith down San Diego way is the first brewery we know of to apply for permission and register their label, but brewers here in OC are excited by the proposal, and we urge them to go to talk to their local ABC field agents. After all, the ABC is from the government, and they're here to help, right?