TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s “growler war” over craft beer may be ending under legislation passed by the state House Friday and ready to go to Gov. Rick Scott.
Senate Bill 186, already passed in the Senate, lifts the problematic requirement that craft breweries operate as tourist attractions, a holdover from the days when the law was intended to benefit Tampa’s Busch Gardens.
It also allows the breweries to sell beer in the popular 64-ounce, refillable “growler.” Current law allows 32- and 128-ounce growlers, but not the size in the middle, which brewers and craft beer fans say is the best size to buy the increasingly popular brews.
The legislation could end a long war between craft brewers and big beverage distributors over regulation of beer sales, in which the growler became a pawn.
Distributors said lifting the limits on craft brewery operations could open the way for large beer manufacturers to dominate the market by opening many small tasting rooms selling only their own beer.
Craft brewers are glad to have the legislation passed, but say they had to make compromises in the process.
“It gives us a legal footing to operate without ambiguity, but in return for that we gave up a lot of niggling, minor restrictions,” said Joey Redner of the popular Cigar City Brewing in Tampa.
To prevent a large brewer from taking over the retail market, the bill limits breweries to selling their beer at eight locations. It also limits the amount of beer they may transfer from one brewery location to another.
But Redner said it’s not necessary to have both restrictions. The limit on transfers, he said, will affect his business at a second location he recently opened with a smaller brewery operation.
The House passed the bill with no dissenting votes.
It also loosens restrictions on craft distilleries, small-scale distillers who produce and sell spirits on-premises.
Customers currently may buy only two bottles a year at craft distilleries; the bill increases it to four.