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Can someone tell me why MA brewers can't fill unbranded growlers?

Discussion in 'New England' started by emannths, Feb 14, 2013.

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  1. emannths

    emannths Initiate (193) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Here are MA's labeling rules. Notably...
    So here are the federal rules that apply to (most) growler sales:
    MA's labeling rules are quite clear: you must obey all federal rules, and you may not "use" or "traffic" container that bear or formerly bore the mark of a licensee.

    Therefore, MA brewers should willingly fill unbranded growlers. Additionally, MA brewers could go a step further to help their customers by signing a mutual agreement that consents to their growlers being used by other MA brewers that are party to that agreement. Boom--problem solved. Buy one MA growler and it's good at all MA breweries.

    So come on MA brewers--help out your fans and stop making us buy growlers from every brewery!
    andylipp likes this.
  2. andylipp

    andylipp Zealot (546) Dec 8, 2006 Massachusetts

    Works for me, and would help make space in my closet. I must have growlers from 10 different breweries in there, and NEVER seem to have the right one in the car when i find myself near a brewpub/brewery. Very interested to see the replies.
  3. Longstaff

    Longstaff Initiate (0) May 23, 2002 Massachusetts

    These "rules" are either born of ignorance and wanting to cya or are used as an excuse because brewers don't want their beer in growlers with other breweries names on it (for marekting purposes or don't want people to assume its the breweries' beer that is on the label when sharing)

    The simplest approach imo is for breweries to have stickers you can place on the growler to cover up any other brewery label/markings. It can have all the same requirements as a bottle label, just leave the name of the beer name blank and write it in if its a requirement. If people don't want a free sticker put on their shiny new growler (as if its some prized possession that must not be tainted) then they can buy a new branded one from the brewery.
    youbrewidrink likes this.
  4. emannths

    emannths Initiate (193) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    I don't think you can't use a sticker to cover up someone else's logo: "No licensee shall deface, mar, obliterate, remove or cover any brand or label..." Maybe you can get around this with a narrow reading of the rule, but I'm trying to be conservative--I don't have any expectations that local brewers are going to be on the cutting edge of the law.

    But since there's no requirement that anything be on the label, blank growlers seem like the simplest solution and require no convoluted readings of the rules.
  5. MGambleWWS

    MGambleWWS Initiate (0) Nov 12, 2007 Massachusetts

    Somewhat unrelated but I found this interesting little nugget in the laws you posted:

    (11) All pipes, coils, hose, faucets and other appliances used in the drawing of draught beer shall be thoroughly cleansed and flushed at least twice in each week, and shall be kept in a clean and sanitary condition at all times.

    I wonder how many places actually adhere to the twice a week cleaning schedule?
    ricchezza and Horbar like this.
  6. messrock

    messrock Initiate (174) Dec 9, 2010 Massachusetts

    One reason - most of them simply swap out the growler when filling it. Why? Because they know its clean and sanitized. Why fil a growler that wasn't cleaned properly and will affect the flavor of your beer, resulting in people thinking your beer sucks?

    I'm not saying i wouldn't be pumped to not have 7 different logo'd growlers around, but I understand the brewer's hesitance.
  7. cbeer88

    cbeer88 Crusader (719) Sep 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    That may be true, but there are hundreds of breweries around the country that have absolutely no problem filling other people's growlers. I mean really, if it's good enough for Hill Farmstead, it should be good enough for everybody.
    Kelp and Patrick like this.
  8. jacksback

    jacksback Initiate (0) Jul 20, 2011 Massachusetts


    I'm gonna guess "not many".

    That does seem to be a legit issue. If the brewery was to swap the other-brewery-branded growler for one of their sanitized ones, they'd have a supply of random growlers from random breweries, possibly even odd sizes, to do later growler fills. It WOULD be a bit odd to, say, hit Jack's Abbey for a fresh growler and be presented with a CBC growler. Not bad, just... odd.

    And if they were to just refill a growler you brought in... loads of chances for sanitary issues and beer mixing issues and such.
  9. tehzachatak

    tehzachatak Initiate (0) Sep 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    I've had many, many, many growlers filled, in many states, and I believe Jack's Abby is the only place that has swapped out my growler. I'm sure other places will offer to do this if you request it, and yes, they check my growler before they fill it (and I have watched people's growlers get refused a fill because they aren't clean), but I don't think this is an "issue" given that tons, if not the majority, of places will "refill a growler you brought in".
  10. jacksback

    jacksback Initiate (0) Jul 20, 2011 Massachusetts

    Interesting. I generally don't grab growlers much (amusingly, the only exception being Jacks Abbey, due to proximity), so I can't speak to your experience. I do like that JA does that, as you always know it's clean and so on.

    But yeah, not a huge issue, especially with the "consume it promptly" idea on growlers. A good rinse likely would be fine.
  11. tehzachatak

    tehzachatak Initiate (0) Sep 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    Yeah, I like it too! I, personally, think that for me, my growler being clean is my own responsibility, so I make sure it is, but for the brewer, it makes certain that nothing spoils their beer that's out of their control.

    I'm just saying, it's not the norm, so I don't think the issue of breweries having to take misbranded growlers would be a problem.
  12. andylipp

    andylipp Zealot (546) Dec 8, 2006 Massachusetts

    Funny, I've had the opposite experience. I have had countless growlers filled at many, many brewpubs and I can count on one hand the times that my growler was NOT swapped for a new, clean one. In fact, the few times that I HAVE seen one simply refilled I've been pretty disgusted.
    Jason likes this.
  13. Patrick

    Patrick Initiate (0) Aug 13, 2007 Massachusetts

    I don't fill too many growlers, but it is probably an 80/20 split between using the one I brought in and swapping it for a new one.

    Why would you be disgusted with them refilling the growler you brought in unless you didn't clean it out?
  14. Brez07

    Brez07 Initiate (0) Sep 29, 2009 Maine

    Portsmouth Brewery does this. In fact, refilling the old growler is not an option
  15. andylipp

    andylipp Zealot (546) Dec 8, 2006 Massachusetts

    Understand that if it were my growler I might not be concerned. I'm a homebrewer and I understand the importance of sanitizing bottles, but not every growler customer has that same understanding. But there's an additional concern.

    I recall sitting at the bar at a brewpub watching customer after customer bring in their growlers for refilling, and seeing the bartender pour out 1/4 inch of stale, sometimes chunky beer from the bottle. Then, without so much as a perfunctory rinse under the water faucet, they would fill that nasty growler. Still not my problem, you say? Read on.

    The bartender then used the same filler tube to fill new growlers. Yes, the tube that had just been dipped into the science project at the bottom of the previous, unwashed growler.

    IMO, that's both disgusting and disrespectful. And I'll bet it happens in every brewpub that doesn't insist on filling only a freshly cleaned and/or swapped out growler.
    messrock likes this.
  16. emannths

    emannths Initiate (193) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    There are easier ways to solve this problem than to run a deposit system...like a bucket of sanitizer to store the tube.

    Any place that refills customer-owned growlers should probably have a policy that they only fill clean growlers.
  17. Patrick

    Patrick Initiate (0) Aug 13, 2007 Massachusetts

    I see your concern, but haven't experienced that before. I've seen the filling tube stored in sanitizing solution.
  18. andylipp

    andylipp Zealot (546) Dec 8, 2006 Massachusetts

    Make no mistake, I'm still all for the generic growler thing. Plus I would certainly ONLY want a growler filled by an establishment that requires clean growlers and, as Patrick suggests, takes sanitization seriously.
  19. jomobono

    jomobono Disciple (350) Mar 12, 2012 Massachusetts
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    At Hill Farmstead they do the sniff test and there is a sign that says they will not fill dirty growlers.
  20. mingo1968

    mingo1968 Initiate (0) Jan 13, 2010 Pennsylvania

    If you hand in a dirty growler and you know you didnt clean it right shame shame on you. I would hope if you enjoy Craft beer enough to own a few growlers then you would take the time to properly clean it before a fill.
  21. pveilleux

    pveilleux Aspirant (271) Feb 3, 2012 Massachusetts

    Along the same lines, anyone know why MA brewers can't fill growlers from another brewery? I was recently told its MA law this can't be done, but I read all the labeling laws from the link above and no matter how much I stretch the letter of the law, I can't find the one that says they can't fill different growlers.
  22. Jake351

    Jake351 Initiate (0) May 4, 2012 Massachusetts

    I don't find this nearly as annoying as not being able to return empty beer bottles to any other recycle machine OTHER than the exact store of purchase....
  23. rknrll

    rknrll Initiate (37) Jul 13, 2009 Massachusetts

    You can return bottles to any store, as long as the beer is sold there.
    Kappy's in Medford will take anything. Rejections can be given to the attendant and he will write out a slip.
  24. kleo

    kleo Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2009 Massachusetts

    Please bear in mind that I had this discussion on my first night back at a brewery in six months after having previously been in 1-2 times per week. If my hand was empty, someone bought me a celebratory pint to fix that problem.
    One of the guys there was a numbers nerd for a local brewery. I asked about the growlers thing as I'd just filled an old Opa! Opa! in a NY liquor store. He told me that filling another brewery's growler wasn't technically illegal. However, there was something buried in the governing tax code that made doing so and staying in compliance insanely complicated. I wouldn't hold that up as gospel truth since my memory is way past fuzzy and punking someone that trashed would be understandable.
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