After three years of debate, Florida’s craft beer aficionados will finally be able to purchase their favorite brews in common, refillable, half-gallon jugs called “growlers.” And Florida brewers are ecstatic about the long-overdue change. Luis Brignoni, owner of Miami’s Wynwood Brewing Company, sees benefits for his customers in the new size, “It’s the industry standard, and we were one of a few states that didn’t allow them. I’m glad we’re with the times now.”
A 64-ounce growler holds approximately four pints of beer, the perfect amount for a craft-beer fan who wants to take beer home from his or her local brewery. Unlike cans or bottles, growlers can be reused, which decreases costs for both consumers and brewers while also decreasing potential environmental waste. When micro-breweries are starting out, bottling costs are often one of their biggest expenses. By taking advantage of reusable containers, small outfits can get their brand out there and get their product into more fridges affordably. In addition to the cost-saving benefits and the lower environmental costs, growlers have the potential to help grow Florida’s economy, which has experienced exponential growth in the number of craft breweries that have opened over the past decade. In the Sunshine State, the economic impact of the craft beer industry was valued at a whopping $875.8 million in 2012, a number which continues to grow as the industry rapidly expands.
However, until July 1, 2015, these half-gallon growlers were illegal in Florida. Due to a Prohibition-era law, Florida establishments could only sell beer in containers smaller than 32 ounces or larger than 128 ounces. This arcane law prevented entrepreneurs in Florida from selling the industry-standard 64-ounce growler. Proponents of the regulation argued that the law helped deter excessive drinking. However, consumers could still buy several 32-ounce jugs or even gallon containers, but not the 64-ounce growler, which is preferred by craft-brew fans across the country.
Despite the potential benefits of growlers, some of the country’s major beer producers fought against their legalization. Large beer companies, afraid of the potential loss of revenue to small competitors, poured money into lobbying in Florida to keep the growler ban on the books. Between 2012 and 2014,Anheuser-Busch alone spent $800,000 on lobbyists in Florida. “Big Beer” effectively used its political clout to make it more difficult for small breweries to participate in the market.
In 2014, the Institute for Justice identified the growler ban as one of twelve Florida laws that could be repealed to “boost business, create jobs, and change Florida’s economic policy for the better.”
To celebrate the new law, on July 1 breweries across the state held a statewide toast at 6:40 p.m. Now we can all raise a glass (or growler) to economic liberty.
— David Sandefer
David Sandefer is an intern at the Institute for Justice