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No growlers allowed in Florida

Arcane state law will allow you to buy a container of two pints or a gallon, but not a standard 64-ounce growler

Photo: Photo by Rob Bartlett, License: N/A

Photo by Rob Bartlett

"The problem is that gallon growlers cost about six or seven times more for the minimum order," Conley says. "It would have been a lot more cost-effective to start with half-gallon growlers – it's pretty much the standard for growlers. Anybody out of state that comes here, when they ask, 'Have you got growlers?' and I show them our [quart] growlers, they're always like, 'That's cute ... what the hell is that? Is that a medicine bottle?'"

Conley says what's particularly frustrating is that, according to the law, Hourglass can sell someone a 5-gallon keg – "but we can't sell that same person a half-gallon growler. It's silly."

The irony of the growler statute is that it arose to replace another law that, until 2001, forced even more stiff regulations on breweries wishing to sell in the Sunshine State. Only beer bottled in increments of 12, 16 and 32 ounces were permissible under the legislation, effectively banning craft beers shipped in 22-ounce "bomber" bottles, prevalent throughout the rest of the country, from appearing in Florida's coolers and liquor-store shelves.

The revised law sought to fix this issue and open the state's borders to more craft beers, but in the process it invented a whole new problem for Florida beer lovers.

"We have to turn people away multiple times a week," says Crystal Harrison of Orlando Brewing, which has grappled with the growler problem since they began growling their beer in 2006. Housed in a warehouse on Atlanta Drive, Orlando Brewing has become something of a tourist destination. Those looking to sample the local brew between stints at the theme parks come here, sometimes drifting in one by one, other times trundling in via hotel shuttle. They often tote their own half-gallon growlers from home, looking to fill up.

"They are in shock, every time, when we tell them we can't fill it," Harrison says. "They almost look at me like I'm lying to them."

Jay, a Seattle homebrewer park-hopping between Universal Studios and Disney with his wife, couldn't believe it when he stopped in Orlando Brewing last January. He asked for a half-gallon bottle of their Hopgasmic IPA, only to be proffered a quart or gallon growler, instead.

Unwilling to splurge on a small fishtank of beer, Jay settled on the quart-sized iteration.

"You really can't fill a half-gallon?" he asked during his visit. "Even if I brought my own?"

There has at least been momentum for changes to growler size legislation through the state congress. On Feb. 12 House Bill 715, sponsored by state Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Sunrise, was filed to amend the law and allow 64-ounce growlers to be filled and sold throughout the Sunshine State. Florida Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, introduced a second piece of legislation, Senate Bill 1344, on Feb. 28 outlining the same proposals to alter Florida's bottling law.

If either of these bills pass into law, they would take effect July 1, 2013, and for many beer lovers and brewers, they couldn't come soon enough.

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