I saw this on BeerAdvocate about half an hour ago: fella posting said that State Line Liquors (one of my favorite booze stores, and that's no kidding: we stop in here almost every time we get below Wilmington for beer, wine, and spirits) got a letter from the Maryland Attorney General's office telling them that they have to stop filling growlers for sale from their in-house taps. Here we go, I thought, either it's another New Dry with their panties in a twist about "jugs" of beer, or just some over-active bureaucrat enforcing what they think is the law, or maybe somebody looking to get State Line in hot water. Because it can't be a real problem, right?
I picked up the phone and called Robert Murray at State Line, we chatted about the weather (they've got less than an inch), and then I asked him, what's up with the growler thing? He laughed. "It's comical," he said. "They sent us a letter and said that since we didn't have a microbrewery license we couldn't put beer in a jug. But they won't give us the paperwork to tell us what law we violated." He explained that the letter had actually come from the county liquor board, but they were essentially just passing on a letter direct from the AG's office.
"We have both an on-premise license and off-premise license," he said. "No one called to ask what we were doing, and no one [from the AG's office] has actually witnessed what we're doing. Where did it come from? We don't know."
Could someone please tell me why growler sales are such an issue? Here you've got a place that can sell bottles, cans, and kegs of beer; they can sell pre-filled growlers. They also have an on-premise license: they can sell a glass of draft beer to a customer, who can then stand there and drink it. But filling a jug from the tap, right in front of the person, is somehow illegal? Tell me why. Is it labeling requirements? Growlers often don't say what is in them, but you're filling it right in front of the person. Is there no room in the law for common sense? Is it health issues? Why is a growler less healthy than serving it in an open glass? Is it a safety issue, are they worried someone might drive down the road and open the jug? Can't be: you can open bottles, cans, and pre-filled growlers just as easily.
I want to hear the reasoning on this one. And I'd really like to challenge all state alcohol agencies to open up their laws on this. Growlers are perfectly safe, they are just a glass of draft with a lid on them. They support local business. They do not encourage unsafe consumption in any way. Why not make a few reasonable requirements -- labeling for volume, that obnoxious federal "warning" wording, and a required visual inspection and rinse -- and then step back and let adults buy legal beverages in the format that they wish. I mean...is it legal to buy beer in Maryland, or isn't it?
It's been doing really well, we've been having a lot of fun. The county inspector did call us today. He has a meeting with the liquor board atty, we're trying to set up a meeting. It's comical. How about I just sell the bottle, like on eBay? No, I haven't gone that far yet.