Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Growlers: a response from the PLCB

I asked the PLCB about growler regs for a newspaper piece I'm working up, and I got a response this morning. My thanks to Ms. Chapman for a thorough response with a minimum of bull...and I gotta figure the PLCB knows about the blog: my tracking software has registered multiple daily visits from a PLCB computer since about the third week the blog was up. Cheers to the fairness, which is why I have tried to be as fair as possible myself.

Here's the response; I've bolded some interesting bits, (and added some comments and "interpretation"):


Your query on growlers was passed on to the PLCB press office. It seems plausible that everyone you ask might have a different idea of the law, because there are different restrictions on beer sales depending on the type of licensee selling the beer.

There is no specific language in the Code addressing growler packaging . In many cases the customer provides the actual container, whether it is a growler he's purchased from the brewery, or something else. (This would certainly seem to indicate that the PLCB doesn't care what growler a brewpub fills, or what the label says, or whether it's sealed.) All the language concerns the maximum or minimum amount of beer that a customer may take off the premises.

Here's a summary of what is in the Code concerning take-away draft beer, and the actual code:

Brewpub licensees, MAXIMUM of 192 ounces. These are establishments that serve food and beer on the premises, and sell for off-premise consumption. They have the same take-away limits as restaurant, hotel and eating-place licensees. (Note that this seems to imply that growler sales by restaurant, hotel, and 'eating-place' licensees are legal. No problem there.)

[Relevant code: SECTION 4-442. Retail dispensers' restrictions on purchases and sales

(a)(1) No retail dispenser shall purchase or receive any malt or brewed beverages except in original containers as prepared for the market by the manufacturer at the place of manufacture. The retail dispenser may thereafter break the bulk upon the licensed premises and sell or dispense the same for consumption on or off the premises so licensed: Provided, however, That no retail dispenser may sell malt or brewed beverages for consumption off the premises in quantities in excess of one hundred ninety-two fluid ounces: Provided, further, That no club licensee may sell any malt or brewed beverages for consumption off the premises where sold or to persons not members of the club.]

Brewery licensees, MINIMUM of 64 ounces. These licensees only brew beer and only sell for off-premise consumption.

[Relevant code:SECTION 4-440. Sales by manufacturers of malt or brewed beverages; minimum quantities

No manufacturer shall sell any malt or brewed beverages for consumption on the premises where sold, nor sell or deliver any such malt or brewed beverages in other than original containers approved as to capacity by the board, nor in quantities of less than a case or original containers containing sixty-four ounces or more which may be sold separately; nor shall any manufacturer maintain or operate within the Commonwealth any place or places other than the place or places covered by his or its license where malt or brewed beverages are sold or where orders are taken.]

FYI, this 64-oz. minimum is a result of Act 15 of 2003, actually passed specifically to reduce the minimum from 128 oz. and permit growler sales at breweries . (Note that this means half-gallon and two-liter growlers are legal at all retail locations; and explains why Weyerbacher was selling gallon growlers; they did it before the 2003 rule change. Anyone still have one of those gallon growlers?)

The only other thing to keep in mind is that local municipalities may have open-container laws that could restrict growler sales. (Which begs the a growler an "open" container?)

I know you're familiar with the law governing non-growler sales:

Beer distributor, MINIMUM of 128 ounces (kegs, cases). Off-premise sales only.

Restaurant or eating place licensee, MAXIMUM of 192 ounces. (Two six-packs to go.)

If you want to peruse the whole Liquor Code, you can find it online at

Please don't hesitate to call us directly if you need anything else.


Francesca Chapman Deputy Press Secretary


Anonymous said...

I don;t have a Weyerbacher gallon growler, but I wish I still had the two-liter soda bottle growler I got filled from Happy Valley Brewery with a black-and-white label on it. Would seem that was illegal at the time!

Jay said...

Mark E from Iron Hill recently made a very clear statement on the internet that it is illegal for them to fill outside growlers.

Lew Bryson said...

Mark's statement probably directly reflects an interpretation of the Code's language on labeling; however, the PLCB's response in this post strongly indicates that they do not consider growlers to be packages in the normal sense, and therefore the labeling rules don't apply...

But it's not crystal clear, and therefore subject to interpretation, which is my whole point in this pair of posts. It's not just growlers, the whole damned Code is so convoluted and imprecise and unclear that it's a great burden to operators and enforcement agents alike. It needs to be radically overhauled and simplified.