Lawmakers make beer 'growler' bill look better and more popular – Orlando Sentinel (blog)

TALLAHASSEE — A long-brewing lager feud in the Florida Legislature was flattened Monday when House lawmakers amended a beer “growler” bill to allow craft brewers more latitude to have unlimited guest taps in their pubs.

The bill, HB 1329, authorizes the 64-ounce beer growlers already legal in some 47 other states, but also delves into Florida’s complicated “three-tier” system of beer brewers, distributors and retailers by allowing some manufacturers to sell their beer at their breweries.

That fight between Florida’s burgeoning brew-pub industry and traditional giants like Anheuser-Busch Cos., helped kill a growler bill last year, but the changes approved by the House Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee would allow manufacturers to sell their beers at taprooms without a vendor license under specific conditions.

Craft brewers, though, would be allowed to have unlimited guest taps — which they frequently use to showcase other locally or Florida- brewed beers.

The changes mean Florida lawmakers are likely this year to successfully pass a reform of the state’s Prohibition-era ban on half-gallon beer “growlers” and beer-tastings.

Florida law allows the sale of 32-ounce craft beer containers, or larger gallon jugs – but not the 64-ounce growlers. Nationwide, the 64-ounce growler is a preferred size for selling craft brews and micro-brews, which have exploded in popularity in recent years.

“When we began this process, people’s heads were spinning,” said House committee Chair Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach.

“It’s a very complicated, complicated issue and industry we have.”

The bill would still require that the growlers be labeled and sealed when people buy them and take them off-premises, which some beer fans have opposed.

Last week, Anheuser-Busch weighed in to clarify the mega-beer company had no qualms with growlers.

Anheuser-Busch is supportive of deregulating container sizes in Florida, including allowing for 64 ounce growlers,” Doug Bailey, vice president of Industry Affairs at Anheuser-Busch, said in a statement.

“However, important protections for consumers related to safety, proper labeling and responsible packaging standards should apply to all brewers, regardless of container size.”

The bill is just one of several beer and booze-related bills vying for attention in the Legislature’s 60-day session. Lawmakers are also considering tweaking the “three-tier” system to allow some retailers like restaurants buy booze directly from retailers instead of from wholesalers.

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