A weekend for beer lovers
Naples Craft Beer Fest
When: Noon to 4 p.m. today
Where: Bayfront, Naples
Tickets: $50 per person (must be 21 years old); price includes tasting glass, beer samples, food pairings and entertainment; $25 for food and entertainment only
More information: www.naplescraftbeerfest.com
Fort Myers Brewing Co. grand opening
When: Noon to 6 p.m. today
Where: 12811 Commerce Lakes Drive, suites 27 and 28
The brewery will have 4-ounce and 16-ounce pours available. Customers can purchase 32-ounce growlers.
More information: www.facebook.com/FMBrew or (239) 313-6576
Florida craft breweries are pushing to roll back a state law that prevents them from filling 64-ounce growlers, a restriction they say is outdated and punishes small beer producers.
The 64-ounce growler is the industry standard, but in Florida they’re not allowed, even though breweries can fill containers half and twice that size. Growlers are reusable glass jugs filled with beer that are meant to be consumed within two days.
Under House Bill 715 and its companion Senate Bill 1344, state legislators could decide this year to do away with the restriction.
Those opposed to the 64-ounce size say they promote drunkenness because they’re meant for rapid consumption. But it’s an argument that’s doesn’t make sense to William Vaughan, a beer distributor in Southwest Florida.
“It doesn’t hold any water,” he said. “If you don’t want to promote alcoholism, it doesn’t make sense that you can sell a gallon (128 ounces), but you can’t sell 64 ounces.”
Because it is the industry standard, the 64-ounce growler is cheaper for brewers to buy and therefore cheaper for their customers.
“What it breaks down to is to get a quality bottle at 64 ounces, like the rest of the nation, is a little bit cheaper than a 32-ounce bottle,” said Rob Whyte, whose Fort Myers Brewing Company will have its grand opening Saturday. “Customers don’t have to buy two pieces of glass” for the same amount of beer.
Naples Beach Brewery owner Will Lawson said he plans on selling growlers to customers by the beginning of next season. It’s a method that’s more economical and less labor intensive that bottling, he said.
“Growlers are filled directly from the tap, so they don’t have to go through any sort of bottling line,” Lawson said. “A lot of smaller breweries do hand bottling, but it can be a real tedious task because there’s a lot of labor involved.”
State Sen. Garrett Richter said he was not familiar with the latest version of the bill but recalls voting against an earlier version for fear of the larger size leading to “more irresponsible behavior.”
“This issue has been bantered around in the House and the Florida Legislature, and it didn’t get any traction,” he said. “I’m not sure if it’s going to get any this time.”
Rep. Kathleen Passidomo said she hadn’t heard of any controversy surrounding the bill but at the same time didn’t know if it would even make it to a vote.
“It could just be a question of time,” she said. “There are other bills that might have more significance.”
The restriction on growlers isn’t the biggest legislative roadblock for breweries, Lawson said. It just seems to him that there’s no real reason for it.
“It doesn’t make sense and it’s kind of anti-business as far as breweries are concerned,” he said.
Both Lawson and Whyte said they’d also support a move toward allowing smaller breweries to self-distribute their beers to local restaurants and bars, eliminating the middle man.
“There are other laws too that we want to address,” Lawson said, “so we’re starting with this one and hoping to build off the momentum that we’ve gained.”