Nanny of the Week: Florida growls at craft breweries’ growlers

Part 25 of 25 in the series Nanny State of the Week

By Eric Boehm |

In Florida, you can buy beer that comes in cans. You can buy beer that comes in bottles.

You can even buy beer that comes in kegs, in cases, in six-packs and in fancy bottles with cork-stoppers. You can beer that is poured from a tap at a bar.

GROWLERS ARE GRAND: A 64-ounce reusable jug of beer, known as a growler, is legal in 47 states – but not in Florida.

But if you want to buy beer 64-ounce in a reusable container known by beer connoisseurs as a “growler,” you would be breaking the state law.

However, if you have a 32-ounce beer jug or a larger growler — perhaps you need a gallon of beer — you’re in the clear.

Yes, it makes no sense. And that’s why Florida’s odd and illogical ban on 64-ounce containers of beer is getting challenged in court by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian law firm that just loves taking on the nanny state.

What’s the health or safety rationale for telling consumers that a half-gallon jug is off-limits, but two quarter-gallon jugs are fine? Clearly, the ban isn’t to help the public,” said Mark Miller, an attorney for PLF.

Growlers are legal in 47 other states (Idaho and Mississippi are the others that ban them) and they have become the industry standard for many small craft breweries. Making them illegal in Florida, Miller said, is meant to protect major brewers who are afraid of losing market share to the craft guys.

Many times, nanny state laws are nuisances. But the growler-ban in Florida is actually doing damage to craft brewers like The Crafted Keg, a bar in Stuart, Fla., where you can get 58 varieties of beer.

“We want to give everyone great service, but the Florida growler restrictions are a barrier to that,” co-owner Alex Piasecki said in a statement. “People from out of state will come in and ask to have their half-gallon growlers filled, but we say that we can’t, and that they’d have to buy a new growler in a different size.”

The owners of The Crafted Keg are suing the state, with PLF’s help, in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit, filed late last month, aims to overturn the growler-ban.

According to Reuters, an attempt to overturn the ban in the 2014 Legislature died after a provision backed by distributors was added that also would have forced craft breweries to sell all of their bottles and cans to distributors rather than directly to customers.

Weird alcohol packaging and sales laws are hardly unique to Florida. In Pennsylvania, for example, it’s legal to buy kegs and cases of beer, but not six-packs. Many states ban sales on Sundays and other special days – though we can raise a glass to West Virginia and Kentucky, which recently overturned bans on selling liquor on election day, certainly a day when an adult beverage is most welcome.

But regardless of where and why they exist, limitations on how consumers purchase their booze make little sense.

For their efforts to limit the sales of growlers, Florida lawmakers are this week’s winner. Their prize is a gallon-sized growler of Natty Ice.