California ABC to Allow Generic Growler Fills at Breweries

Categories: Hops to It!
Flickr user klwatts
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?

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Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

No, you do not have to sell beer in containers specific to the beer, otherwise you would have to have separate growlers for each beer at a brewery (no putting Oude Tart in a Hottenroth growler!) Previously, the growler had to be specific to the BREWERY, and it will still not be permitted to sell one brewery's beer in another brewery's growler... the beer-related items were always on the lid or a tag. Some of the required information (brewer, volume, etc.) on the glass, some on the closure or tag. What you have to have is specific LABELS for each beer that can be affixed to the growler, and those labels have to be approved by the state. In the past, part of those labels have always been actually on the growler glass, which required the growler glass to be part of the specification. If you have a blank growler, though, and the ABC approves a label intended to be affixed to the cap, or something to be attached as a tag (in the case of a swing-top growler, on a ziptie through the fastener), then you could fill any growler that met your specifications. Which is why Alesmith has said they are only going to be filling blank growlers, because trying to cover up everybody else's information would be a pain in the ass. I don't know their exact application but I imagine all of the info will be on a tag.

Noel Flores
Noel Flores

think again bub. Mr Appelsmith explained that was a misunderstanding back in Feb. they had to reiterate that ABC enforces a set of permissive laws (permitting you from doing something otherwise illegal) and the term with growlers as that beers have to be sold in containers specific to the beer. if a law does not explicitly permit something, then you can't do it. so no no growler fills from any old jug.

Gregory Soave
Gregory Soave

Awesome. I'm surprised California would let you do something that makes sense.


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