My pint glass from Zebulon, NC

My pint glass from Zebulon, NC

Updated and more specific growler laws take effect in North Carolina this Friday, October 25, 2013. The laws will allow retailers, such as bottle shops and grocery stores, to fill growlers up to two liters (approx. 68 ounces). Raleigh, NC’s News and Observer, however, reported that not all retail store owners were terribly excited about the implementation of the new laws. The report cites that the regulations will create issues with time and space. These issues arise as a result of the new sanitation and labeling requirements.

Let’s start with the new definition of “growler”. 04 NCAC 02T .0308 now defines a growler as “a refillable rigid glass, plastic, aluminum or stainless steel container with a flip-top or screw-on lid that is no larger than 2 liters (0.5283gallons) into which a malt beverage is prefilled, filled or refilled for off-premises consumption.” The words in bold are additions to the rule.

The sanitation requirements give permit holders three options. The first option creates a burden in terms of both time and space. It calls for manual washing of growlers in a three compartment sink. A three compartment sink will certainly take up much needed space in a retailer’s premises. It may usurp space that otherwise could be used to sell or store merchandise. As far as time is concerned, a manual wash must be performed using the following guidelines (included in full to demonstrate the length and complexity of the rule):

(A) Prior to starting, clean sinks and work area to remove any chemicals, oils or grease from other cleaning activities;

(B) Empty residual liquid from the growler to a drain. Growlers shall not be emptied into the cleaning water;

(C) Clean the growler and cap in water and detergent. Water temperature shall be at a minimum 110ºF or the temperature specified on the cleaning agent manufacturer’s label instructions. Detergent shall not be fat or oil based.

(D) Remove any residues on the interior and exterior of the growler and cap;

(E) Rinse the growler and cap in the middle compartment with water. Rinsing may be from the spigot with a spray arm, from a spigot or from the tub as long as the water for rinsing shall not be stagnant but shall be continually refreshed;

(F) Sanitize the growler and cap in the third compartment. Chemical sanitizer shall be used in accordance with the EPA-registered label use instructions and shall meet the minimum water temperature requirements of that chemical; and

(G) A test kit or other device that accurately measures the concentration in MG/L of chemical sanitizing solutions shall be provided and be readily accessible for use.

A second option is to clean the growler and its cap using a mechanical washing and sanitizing machine equipped with chemical or hot water sanitization. This method also requires use of a test kit to accurately determine the concentration of the sanitizing solution or the water temperature and further requires regular servicing based upon manufacturer guidelines.

The third option allows for growler fills without a sanitation process so long as a well-defined “contamination-free process” is used. The process calls for the filling of growlers with a tube attached to the malt beverage faucet and extended into the bottom of the growler. This option further calls for a container of liquid food grade sanitizer to be maintained for no more than 10 malt beverage taps that will be used for filling growlers and at least five tubes per container to be used only for filling growlers. Moreover, after each filling or refilling of a growler, a given tube shall be immersed in the container with the liquid food grade sanitizer and a different tube shall be used for each fill of a growler.

These sanitation requirements will require investments in time, space and money. They would require the purchase of new equipment and the use of space that could be used in a manner more likely to generate revenue. Retailers will also have to implement new policies and train employees (and potentially hire more employees). Still, while the initial investments may be hefty, the process could become efficient over time. I’m a bit of a germophobe, so I’ll feel more confident about things the next time I’m filling a growler in Asheville or Charlotte.

The relevant labeling requirements can be found at 04 NCAC 02T .0308.

It’s always interesting to observe the evolution of craft beer related law and to see how some believe things could/should still be improved.