The Senate’s malt beverages bill that includes the legalization of the 64 ounce growler passed the House today with a unanimous vote. Much of the news has focused on the excitement of the new found freedom of the 64 ounce growler. There is more to the bill in its final form than simply a growler bill. This lays out the material terms of the bill.
Most importantly to the craft brewers, this deletes the tourism exception. Once there is a brewery, that brewery can be issued a vendors license on the premises. This does create a new limit of 8 vendors licenses that each brewery may hold. It is not terribly likely that the limit of 8 would impact many breweries in the State, but it is a new restriction that the distribution lobby will look to make more restrictive in the future.
The bill also limits transfers from one brewery location to another to the annual production amount at the receiving facility. So if Brewery X (which brews 4,000 barrels in a year) and Brewery Y (which brews 250 barrels in a year) are commonly owned, Brewery X can send up to 250 barrels of beer to Brewery Y during the year.
The bill also specifies that all beer brewed by another manufacturer must be obtained through a distributor. Previously, breweries were specifically allowed to sell their beer directly to other vendor-licensed breweries.
The bill prohibits vendor-licensed breweries from making deliveries. Don’t call your local brewery and ask them to deliver a six pack. They probably weren’t going to bring it to you anyway.
The bill allows growlers of 32, 64 and 128 ounces and notes who may sell them (vendor-licensed breweries, vendors with a quota license and other vendors that are not for on-premise consumption only). It also adds labeling requirements: growlers must bear the brewery name, brand name and anticipated ABV of the product inside. By specifically allowing growlers of 32, 64 and 128 ounces, it implicitly disallows growlers of all other sizes. A growler is defined as an “individual container that holds 32, 64, or 128 ounces of such malt beverage if it is filled at the point of sale.” So if you had a 750 ml growler, don’t use it. Free that growler.
The bill also allows tastings by manufacturers and distributors on the licensed premises of third-party vendors. Those vendors can either be licensed for on premise consumption or, if for consumption off premises only, it must be either in a package store or a 10,000 plus square foot establishment. Samples must be in cups or some form of open containers and, if on the premises where consumption is allowed only off premises, tastings must be in a tasting cup of 3.5 oz or less. Only one manufacturer, distributor, etc. can conduct a tasting at any given time.
The bill also allows craft distillers to sell a couple more bottles per year and it calls for the Department of Transportation to install signs to the craft distillery if the distillery requests that it do so. Craft brewery signs not included.
This ultimately eases anxiety for some that worried about the uncertainty over potential rulemaking that resulted from the retail and distribution groups filing an administrative action challenging the tourism exception. It was possible that the ABT, upon reviewing the language of the tourism exception, could determine that Florida’s craft breweries did not properly fall within the exception. It was also possible that the ABT would simply determine that it needed to update its applications to ask more direct questions about the impact on Florida tourism. This will no longer be a concern. It does also add restrictions that the opposition (which should not logically be an opposition) will try to make more restrictive in the future. Both sides will move forward with an eye towards what’s next.