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Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

Beer distributors say growler deal could be brewing

The Beer Industry of Florida, a lobbying group for beer distributors including MillerCoors, announced Thursday that an effort is underway to bring the industry together for the 2015 legislative session in a way that will help the “explosion of smaller craft breweries.”

In a brief video posted online, the distributors’ group said it wants “smart, modern oversight to keep craft brewers growing.”

Craft brewers remain skeptical, however.

“I am encouraged, as this seems a step in the right direction for them,” said Joshua Aubuchon, a lawyer and lobbyist for the Florida Brewers Guild, in an email. “I think there is still more to this that they are not revealing. But we will remain optimistic, for now.”

In the video, the distributors’ association said it is “mobilizing an industry-wide coalition” to settle the long battle about allowing 64-ounce containers, known as “growlers,” to be filled in Florida.

And that offer, the narrator of the video said, comes with “no strings attached.”

But the narrator added that the industry doesn’t want to see a return to the “bad old days when totally unrestricted breweries sold to the public and even delivered to homes.”

The association contends that allowing sales without regulations will result in a “beer bubble,” which would saturate the market, hurt businesses and increase public dangers through “over-consumption, increasing addiction, domestic violence (and) drinking and driving.”

Distributors have previously fought efforts to allow small brewers to avoid the state’s Depression-era three-tier regulation system that requires the manufacture, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages to be separated.

During the 2014 session, many strings were attached to a proposal in which craft brewers sought the right to sell beer made on-site and poured into individual customers’ 64-ounce containers, as they can with 32-ounce and 128-ounce containers.

Ultimately, lawmakers did not pass a bill.

Florida is one of three states, including Utah and Mississippi, that does not allow a half-gallon growler, the name for the refillable glass jug used to take home beer from a brewery or retailer.


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