More To-Go Beer for You: L.A. Breweries to Start Filling More Growlers

More To-Go Beer for You: L.A. Breweries to Start Filling More Growlers
Sarah Bennett

There may be an end in sight for our ever-growing collection of brewery growlers. Though the names of specific participating breweries are still being kept under wraps, the Los Angeles Brewers Guild announced last week that "several member breweries" soon will be ready to move forward with filling 64-oz. jugs that are not native to their brewery.

The announcement stems from months of discussion among L.A. County's brewers on how to proceed following a "clarification" by a California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control official who, in February, said that breweries could fill growlers from another brewery if certain stipulations were met. Unfortunately, the new interpretation came with few specifics for implementation from ABC. Many breweries -- including those in L.A. -- announced at the time that they would look into it but had no immediate plans to begin to fill non-native growlers.

But it seems that will be changing in the coming weeks, for at least a few local spots. Turn the page to read the guild's statement and why president Jeremy Raub doesn't want to name names quite yet.

The L.A. Brewer's Guild's updated statement on non-native fills says:

Earlier this year, a representative from California ABC commented on breweries' ability to fill growler bottles with beers they manufacture, and stated (in summary) that any brewery can fill any container, provided that existing label information is obscured and that new, approved labeling is affixed to that container. Before this statement was issued, many California breweries were operating to the contrary, in order to avoid confusion and to ensure they remained in compliance with state law and avoided harsh fines and penalties.

For the past several months, the Los Angeles Brewers Guild has been working with its member breweries, as well as other regional brewing guilds, to determine the best course of action to address this new information. At a meeting of the LABG on May 15, 2013, several member breweries revealed that they have received label approval for a new format of growler label and will soon be ready to move forward with filling growlers not native to their own brewery. The guild unanimously agreed that the best course of action is for each brewery to begin these "non-native" fills at their own pace, dependent on their own label approval status and on the infrastructure at each member's individual establishment.

In the coming weeks you can expect to see some local brewers begin these "non-native" growler fills; however, there are a couple key points to keep in mind:

1) Each brewery is different and will consider non-native growler fills based on their own policies and procedures, and on their own preparedness to do so.

2) Some brewers may choose to continue filling only their own growlers at this time. Please respect this decision.

3) Call first. Before you bring a non-native growler to be filled at a brewery, be sure to ask: a) If they will fill a non-native growler b) If they can accommodate filling the size/shape of your particular growler.

4) State law requires that all identifying marks on non-native growlers be obscured before another brewery can fill that growler. ABC specifies that the method of obscuring those identifying marks cannot be "easily removed." Again, each brewery will have their own policy in how they comply with this law, so be sure to check with them before you go to get a fill.

Cheers, and happy growler filling!

We followed up with Raub (of Eagle Rock Brewery) about which label-approved breweries will be allowing generic and non-native growler fills, but he hesitated to name names, citing a collective preference to keep the rollout low-key.

"In speaking with most of the other local brewers, they would all rather start rolling out their new growler-filling procedures quietly instead of making big announcements," Raub said. "I'm hoping that the new statement from the LABG will help encourage people to call their local brewers and get a dialogue going."

Raub also emphasized how complicated this issue is for brewers and said he wanted to ensure that those who have not taken steps toward filling non-natives aren't vilified for not doing what other brewers are. Some may be starting as early as this week, so call your local spot and get the conversation started.

Member breweries that contributed to the initial LABG statement in March included Eagle Rock Brewery, Monkish Brewing Co., Strand Brewing Co., El Segundo Brewing Co., Golden Road Brewing, Wolf Creek Brewing, Kinetic Brewing Co., Beachwood Brewing and the Brewery at Abigaile.

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