A few weeks ago there was quite a stir caused when the California ABC board (those responsible for the laws that govern beer in the state) clarified their position on growler fills. Are the days of breweries only filling their own logo’d growlers numbered?
During an ABC workshop for California craft brewers on February 12th, 2013 the head of the ABC, Jacob Appelsmit, provided clarification on the interpretation of California’s off-premises sales and growler-filling laws:
There has not been a change in law or regulation. The labeling law (section 25200 of the California Business and Professions Code) requires that any container of beer (including growlers) shall have a label on it that correctly identifies the manufacturer and bottler of the beer. After a discussion of the issues, ABC has determined that an existing label on a growler may be covered with a new label reflecting information that correctly identifies the product. For this to be compliant, however, the new label must fully cover an old label such that the brand, alcohol information, and the name/address of the manufacturer and bottler is accurately reflected, and the old (now incorrect) information is obscured.
Word of the “change” in position quickly spread through the California craft beer community, and Golden Road Brewing even briefly offered fills of their beers in non-branded containers. However, the reality of the re-interpreted guidelines still require breweries to get “label approval” for their growler-fills, and nobody was quite sure how the ABC wanted breweries to comply with the new guidelines.
The Los Angeles Brewer’s Guild tackled the subject last week, and here is how LA breweries will be handling the change in guidelines:
Breweries represented at the meeting were Eagle Rock Brewery, Monkish Brewing Co, Strand Brewing Co, El Segundo Brewing Co, Golden Road Brewing, Wolf Creek Brewing, Kinetic Brewing Co, with write in comments from Beachwood Brewing and the Brewery at Abigaile. The Los Angeles Brewers Guild stance on this topic is as follows:
First and foremost the ABC law as it relates to label approvals has not changed. The statement made by the ABC does not absolve the breweries from the labeling required of each brewery in order to provide growler fills. Each brewery’s current label approval is different and specific to that brewery’s packaging. At this time no brewery is approved to fill any vessel that deviates from their approved labeling. This includes blank growlers and growlers with other labels obscured as the growler glass and its presentation is part of each brewery’s approved labeling. At this time member breweries of the LABG will not be providing growler fills in any vessel other than that which is currently approved for that specific brewery.
In the coming weeks the LABG member breweries will be working closely with the ABC, the California Craft Brewers Association, and other guilds throughout the state to further clarify this issue and determine the best course of action. LABG would like to thank our members’ customers for their understanding and cooperation while this issue is being resolved.
Update 3/8/13: President of the newly formed LA Brewer’s Guild, Eagle Rock Brewery owner Jeremy Raub, has much more to say about the issue in this post.
This is a state-wide issue, and there is a lot that needs to happen before there is any meaningful change in the way our local breweries are operating with regards to filling growlers. The good news is that the times are a-changing; just the pace of this change might be a little slower than we’d like.
This is a complex issue with a lot of angles and many interested parties.
Rest assured that the LABG are working towards a resolution, and the fine writers of the Los Angeles Beer Bloggers will stay on-top of any developments and keep our fans posted as the story develops.