** UPDATED The Growler Bill in effect .. well, not quite

Read more about the local bottleneck with the state growler law here.

Since our local breweries have been filling growlers for years, the average Asheville resident is very familiar with those big brown glass jugs. However, since we’re about to dive into bills and laws, let’s get the actual definition out of the way: In legal speak, the so-called Growler Bill defines a growler as: “a refillable container no larger than 2 liters (0.5283 gallons) into which a malt beverage is poured for off-premises consumption.”

The important thing to note is that there are no set specs on the growler besides the volume. That means they don’t actually have to be brown glass jugs. In fact, a couple of new types of growlers are fair game for anyone with the right to fill. Stainless steel growlers, which offer better light protection than brown glass, are becoming the “can” of growlers. (So it’s no surprise that Oskar Blues is an early adopter.) There’s also an ultra-portable pouch starting to make its way to market. Imagine a giant Capri Sun packet filled with beer, and you’re getting close.

Now let’s look at what House Bill 829 changed when it was signed into law. Before this law, only breweries could fill growlers on premise. Everyone else, from specialty beer stores to Ingles, could sell growlers filled at breweries; however, they could not fill the growlers with beer on premise. HB 829 changes that. It allows a wide variety of businesses — restaurants, hotels, eating establishments, food businesses, retail businesses, private clubs, convention centers, community theatres,and breweries — to apply for three types of permits. 

One permit is for the on-premise consumption as well as off-premise, one is for off-premise only, and one is specially tailored for wine shops. Yes, with the new law, wine stores will be able to sell both unfortified and fortified wine in growlers should they received the proper permit. The law also allows for the shipping of beer and wine in growlers.

Even though the bill has become law, the finer points are still being hammered out. Derek J. Allen of Ward and Smith, P.A., who was in Raleigh for the most recent meeting, says that temporary rules could be in effect as early as the July 17 meeting — but it could take longer. “As for permanent rules, the Commission has to adopt those by Jan. 1, 2014. In order to do so, they will have to adopt them, send them to the economic impact review committee for approval, then to the rules commission for approval, then back to the ABC for final approval,” Allen says.

Even though that could take awhile, in the meantime any businesses that are interested in filling growlers can apply for the permit. Once they receive it, they can officially fill growlers provided they follow the temporary rules.

In addition to Asheville Growler, other area bottle shops are likely to start filling growlers quickly once they receive the proper permits. Geoff Alexander of Appalachian Vintner says, “We’re just about there already with our setup … We’ll be adding an additional 10 tap lines and a system to purge with CO2 in the next few weeks. And the growlers are on order. We’re just waiting on the go ahead.”


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