Growler Laws in MA

Discussion in 'New England' started by Patrick, Mar 22, 2013.

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  1. Patrick

    Patrick Initiate (0) Aug 13, 2007 Massachusetts

    So rather than clutter up the trillium thread I'll start a new one.

    I just called Ralph Sacramone who works for the ABCC and he cited a line that said a brewery with x lisence can only fill a growler with their own label on it.

    I'm not sure where others are reading that you just have to ask permission, but maybe the above statement takes priority.
  2. jamvt

    jamvt Disciple (389) Aug 5, 2005 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    What if breweries created a sticker with all the legal mumbo jumbo to adhere to growlers when they are filled? How is this any different than the generic 12 and 22 oz brown bottles used by virtually all breweries who then apply their own labels?
  3. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    What clause/line is he citing? They're online here. I assume he's citing to this clause:
    If you buy a growler, you are the owner of the growler. If you give consent for the brewer to use your container, this restriction should not apply.
  4. Patrick

    Patrick Initiate (0) Aug 13, 2007 Massachusetts

    What you quoted sounds like its referring to a liquor store not defacing bottles/kegs.
  5. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Just for the hell of it, let's go through them one-by-one:

    No problem--the feds have no requirements for growlers filled on-demand.

    Not applicable.

    Again, the feds have no requirements. Regardless, there's nothing here that limits the branding on the growler.

    Not applicable.

    Not applicable.

    Not applicable.

    Not applicable.

    Not applicable. Again, there are no federal rules governing growler sales.

    The presence of another licencee's branding on a customer-owned growler should not be considered a "false statement" by the filler unless the ABCC is going to start cracking down on bars serving SA in SN glasses.

    No problem--brewer is just filling a glass. They're not imitating or forging a label.

    Not applicable.

    The owner of the growler is the customer. So no problem here. Additionally, because the growler is customer-owned rather than licensee-owned, the customer may apply or remove labels. So the door is opened here for one growler with self-adhesive labels applied by each brewer.

    Not applicable.

    Again, the customer owns the growler, so this is no problem.

    The trickiest one is probably the "false statements" clause, but that's a real stretch, and could be very easily solved with a sticker if brewers are really worried.
    SunDevilBeer and ShogoKawada like this.
  6. jacksback

    jacksback Initiate (0) Jul 20, 2011 Massachusetts

    It seems you repeatedly state that these laws simply don't apply to growlers. May I ask how you're getting to that part? It would seem that even if a growler is filled at the brewery, as soon as it's purchased with the intent of taking off-premise, that said growler would generically fall under the same umbrella as any other take-away alcohol container, pre-filled and packaged or no.

    And if that's the case, then the label laws apply.

    This has come up a good amount recently, and it certainly seems a fuzzy area; but if all the brewers filling growlers in MA are convinced they need to do it one way, it would seem odd to think that they're all wrong...
  7. jacksback

    jacksback Initiate (0) Jul 20, 2011 Massachusetts

    And... if this is the main point of this, the whole "keep stickers around for other growlers".... having been to Jacks Abbey for growler fills on a thursday night right before close- and STILL seeing 8 or 10 people there for fills...

    I can entirely see why the JA guys (and others in similar operations) do NOT want to have to sit there and paste stickers on any other growlers that come in.
  8. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    The some rules that I say aren't applicable don't apply because they're either talking about spirits, wholesalers/importers, or bottles for retailers (2, 4-7). The other rules don't apply because they simply state that you have to follow the TTB's rules for labeling. Well, the TTB has no labeling requirements for growlers filled on-demand--they basically consider them to be a 64oz pint glass. Therefore, when MA says that you must label your bottle in accordance to federal regulations as applicable, well, none apply!

    I'm just some yahoo on the internet--I'm not trying to get brewers to disregard what they've been told by the ABCC. But MA growler laws are relatively lax and I suspect that there is a simple solution out there that would allow brewers to fill outside glass and still be in compliance with the law. Without knowing which of these goofy rules is the one the ABCC cites, however, it's impossible to figure out how to address the problem.
  9. jacksback

    jacksback Initiate (0) Jul 20, 2011 Massachusetts

    Possibly the most intelligent post on BA all day. :wink:
  10. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    And I would hope that brewers could see why their customers have no interest in purchasing yet another growler and help them out. Heck, they could make it self service. Or they could say, buy your own stickers. Whatever. But there are plenty of options that beat having a basement full of empty growlers.
  11. Patrick

    Patrick Initiate (0) Aug 13, 2007 Massachusetts

    Since just about none of the above things you quoted apply to growlers, what makes you think any of that pertains to growlers at all? To me it looks like regulations for a different license than the ones breweries have to fill growlers.
  12. jacksback

    jacksback Initiate (0) Jul 20, 2011 Massachusetts

    Well- the only one I've seen proposed (from you, and I believe others) is the whole sticker thing. And I think you're drastically downplaying the pain in the ass that would be for the brewery. Dealing with all the different growlers, dealing with the stickers (and likely a different one for different beers?), and the hassle of having to do all that while busy. Having to order all the stickers. Keeping them around, and all that.

    Why should the brewery have to do that, only to save you the effort of remembering to bring their growler?

    Once you've purchased one or two growlers... isn't it easier for you to just use them again, as opposed to the brewery having to go through this whole sticker thing?

    I agree that the law/practice doesn't seem entirely rational, but this sticker-label thing sounds a lot LESS practical and rational.
  13. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Well, another option is to just use a growlers with no label. MA has no requirement that a label exist--it only (maybe) says that you can't use trademarks you don't own. Or use MA Brewers Guild growlers that have the branding of all participating breweries. It depends on what rule the ABCC thinks prevents brewers from filling outside glass.

    As to why the brewery should put effort into workarounds to fill outside glass, it would be as a service to their customers. I only use one or two growlers at a time, but MA laws mean I need to own one from every brewery I get a fill from. So instead of owning one or two, I have to buy 5-10, and I need to have the right one with me. If all our breweries love their customers so much, maybe they'd be willing to put some effort into making our lives easier. If stocking a bunch of Avery stickers is too much hassle, just say you won't fill any growler that bears the TM of another brewer.
    FrankLloydMike likes this.
  14. jacksback

    jacksback Initiate (0) Jul 20, 2011 Massachusetts

    According to the JA guys (who I would assume know what they're talking about), growlers DO need to have labels. And there's the fact that Patrick confirmed this rule with the body that would enforce it.

    And using generic growlers... so the brewery has to give up their branding for the convenience of customers?

    Just seems that when it boils down to it, the whole debate on this "growler branding" thing seems to be:
    I don't want to go to the trouble of buying multiple growlers and remembering the correct one, so all the breweries I frequent should change the way they do things, and possibly change the law, to accomodate that.

    When a much simpler solution would seem to be... bring the correct growler?
  15. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    And yet no one can actually cite to the clause that requires a label. The JA guys pointed to (3), but that only deals with labeling with the volume, so I don't know how that relates to outside growlers. I'm not doubting that someone at the ABCC has told them "no outside growlers," but it's weird that no one seems to know why.

    As to brewers forgoing their branding or putting some effort into helping their customers...yes! That is my expectation! They don't require their draft accounts to buy branded glasses from them. I'm already at their freakin' brewery. How much branding do they need? Is it that hard to buy Avery labels? If they can keep growlers on hand, they can manage to keep a few labels on hand too if branding is that important.

    And really, the situation I envision a change like this benefiting is that it makes random visits much more likely. I can leave a clean growler in my trunk and know that if I happen to be driving by Framingham, or Everett, or the Seaport, I can swing by and get it filled. It also makes me much more likely to buy beer from a new or inconvenient brewery (e.g., Trillium) if I can use any growler instead of having to buy a new one.

    I just want to stress that I'm not faulting brewers for following the ABCC's advice. It's just that there seem to be several relatively simple ways to legally fill growlers sold by other brewers that don't require changing the law. If we had more detail on how the ABCC interprets the application of those rules to growlers, we could make progress here.
    tehzachatak and halfshell like this.
  16. jamvt

    jamvt Disciple (389) Aug 5, 2005 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Doesn't it just boil down to common sense? Our weird growler laws are the exception, not the rule.
  17. pjl44

    pjl44 Initiate (0) Oct 3, 2008 Massachusetts

    Wouldn't the quickest fix be if everyone adopted a system similar to Jack's Abby? There you're not purchasing a growler for $3, but paying a $3 deposit. You can either refill the growler or get your $3 deposit back if you're just returning empty ones. I don't think twice about grabbing new glass there because your net layout is never more than what you have at the time.
    Pahn likes this.
  18. jacksback

    jacksback Initiate (0) Jul 20, 2011 Massachusetts

    Because that's the law? Or the rules laid out by the ABCC? Seems like you're looking for some sort of "justification" or some such... which I'm sure you'll disagree with. Hence, the "why" of it isn't really material.

    They do require branded tap handles. And... that's a pretty damn big deal for you to be expecting. Branding means a LOT to anyone in the business of selling a product they create... and you want brewers to entirely forgo that on growlers just to make things a little more convenient for you. Gotta say... wow.

    See, you keep saying "simple"... but all the solutions you've suggested (rather, the sticker one, which seems ot be it) is only "simple" in your eyes. I bet nearly every brewer in MA who fills growlers would STRONGLY disagree with the idea of re-labeling every growler from other breweries with some sticker as "simple".

    It'd be a royal pain in the ass is what I bet they'd say.

    I honestly can't believe the branding one. You really think it's not only legit, but reasonable as well, to ask a brewery to entirely forgo their branding on growlers.
  19. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Where does the law say you can't fill outside growlers? That's all I'm asking.
    Given that dozens, perhaps hundreds of brewers already do this, I don't see why it's so unreasonable.
    halfshell likes this.
  20. cbeer88

    cbeer88 Crusader (719) Sep 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    So - ultimately, it sounds like a plain brown glass growler with a sticker slapped on it should cover every possible concern.
  21. Pahn

    Pahn Meyvn (1,456) Dec 2, 2009 New York
    Beer Trader

    i don't know the law, but if it is the case that "forgoing their branding" and filling plain brown growlers would allow for filling outside growlers, obviously customers should demand this.

    surely the "brand recognition" that comes from seeing a growler or the warm feeling you get from a pretty growler are not more beneficial to breweries than people actually coming to fill growlers... and i'm sure lots of people are turned off of having to buy yet another giant jug, as per the trillium thread.

    everyone wins (consumer and brewer) from filling outside growlers, so whatever strategy makes that happen is the proper one.
  22. emannths

    emannths Initiate (194) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Even if the ABCC says "as we interpret the rules, they imply no outside growlers," it's still worthwhile to push back on them. If everyone took the ABCC's interpretations as infallible, no brewer in MA would hold a Farmer-Brewer license. Maybe pushback against this interpretation of labeling rules could have a similar effect--it did in California.

    Of course, it would help to have an ally in the industry...
  23. geocool

    geocool Initiate (175) Jun 21, 2006 Massachusetts

    What makes sense to me is that brewers should be allowed to fill any growler, and the ABCC should not be telling them they can't unless they can identify the law that says so.
  24. Patrick

    Patrick Initiate (0) Aug 13, 2007 Massachusetts

    You guys should call the dude I talked to. Push for more details than I did.
  25. willbm3

    willbm3 Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    These brewers lose my business because I don't feel like paying for a giant jug of glass that I may or may not be able to use again. If I could have 1 plain brown growler I could use everywhere I would be more inclined to get growler fills.
    AdamP likes this.
  26. willbm3

    willbm3 Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    How do you get you growler deposit back? By returning it to the brewery? That's not exactly convenient. How about I just pay a one time fee of like $2 to get my very own plain brown growler. I can then use this growler at multiple breweries/bars/growler filling stations across these United States. Seems more convenient and more environmentally friendly
  27. Patrick

    Patrick Initiate (0) Aug 13, 2007 Massachusetts

    He was talking about the quickest fix. What you are saying most likely involves changing the law, which won't be quick at all.
  28. willbm3

    willbm3 Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    Sure, but if I have to return to a brewery to get my deposit back it's not exactly helpful. I'm still in effect buying the growler. Unless you live down the street from a brewer it isn't a solution. You can't return them to your local store
  29. pjl44

    pjl44 Initiate (0) Oct 3, 2008 Massachusetts

    Of course it's not ideal, but I'm talking about operating under the current laws. At least having the option to return them alleviates some of the cost involved.
  30. willbm3

    willbm3 Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    Sure, but you don't really have the option of returning to alot of breweries to get your money back. And if you're returning you're probably just gonna get another fill.
  31. pjl44

    pjl44 Initiate (0) Oct 3, 2008 Massachusetts

    There have been times where I've had more Jack's Abby growlers than I could use because I either brought a few to a party or just took a swing by without any on me. It was nice to have the option to drop them all back off and get the deposits back. I live in Medford and they're in Framingham. I don't know what else to tell ya other than it makes me more apt to get fills on a whim knowing I'm not stuck with the growlers.

    Totally agree with you that the best case scenario is that the law gets changed. Care to place an over/under on when that occurs? Until that time, I'm only trying to highlight their system as a possible benchmark.
  32. DerekMorgan

    DerekMorgan Disciple (372) Jan 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    So wouldn't you be able to get around all of this by having any brewery or distribution center for growlers only fill blank growlers and attach a tag with the name, alcohol % and contents of the container? At Trillium it seems like this is how they are complying with the law by attaching a paper tag that says the name of the beer and the Alc% (Farmhouse 6.8%) on it with the brewery logo being on the bottle. If the growler had no logo then you just have the logo on the tag and it would comply with all laws, right?
  33. messrock

    messrock Initiate (174) Dec 9, 2010 Massachusetts

    Theoretically, yes. What brewer is goin to step up and make a change to appease a vocal minority?
    SunDevilBeer and Auror like this.
  34. chrisrhoden

    chrisrhoden Initiate (0) Apr 6, 2013

    Ian_B likes this.
  35. pveilleux

    pveilleux Aspirant (271) Feb 3, 2012 Massachusetts

    Ian_B likes this.
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