How can we mobilize to change the Growler laws in MA?

Discussion in 'New England' started by geoffpm, Aug 26, 2013.

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  1. geoffpm

    geoffpm Initiate (167) Sep 10, 2007 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Just spent a weekend in Park Slope, Brooklyn and made a pilgrimage to Bierkraft. Perfect weather and the place was packed at 4 pm.

    Great Bottle selection but the Growler choices were amazing. Got a big growler of Coronado Idiot DIPA that was just oozing hops, a small of Green Flash Symposium IP and tasted the Peekskill DIPA that was very westcoast like.

    Wish the Growler laws in MA would change so we could emulate the incredible beer scene in Brooklyn
  2. BearsOnAcid

    BearsOnAcid Savant (968) Mar 17, 2009 Washington
    Beer Trader

    There's a lot of things about Brooklyn that I'd like to see in MA.
  3. emannths

    emannths Aspirant (203) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    This bubbled up a couple years ago but went nowhere. Brewers are opposed, and retailers/bars don't seem enthusiastic enough to overcome that opposition.
    It's really aggravating to see regulations used to protect a business model, but, well, welcome to real life in a heavily-regulated industry.

  4. Jason

    Jason Founder (8,019) Aug 23, 1996 Massachusetts
    Staff Beer Trader

    A proper German beer hall would be a great start ... been giving that idea away to people for free for the last 5+ years. ;-)
    Janeinma likes this.
  5. Jason

    Jason Founder (8,019) Aug 23, 1996 Massachusetts
    Staff Beer Trader

    Some smaller brewers would have to raise their prices immediately or just keg less and hope that some brand loyalty kicks in to keep their bottles sales up. Boston area bars would be selling some pricy growlers as well. ;-)
  6. Longstaff

    Longstaff Initiate (0) May 23, 2002 Massachusetts

    Would bukoswki's only fill them 3/4 full? :grinning:
    FreudianID, RBCORCORAN and jamvt like this.
  7. Jason

    Jason Founder (8,019) Aug 23, 1996 Massachusetts
    Staff Beer Trader

    I emailed the DOS in MA about beer pours and no standards in the state for it ... would be interesting if they were to draw up a standard for it.
    Janeinma likes this.
  8. emannths

    emannths Aspirant (203) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    I don't really get the appeal of growler stations other than to perhaps avoid the bomber tax. That said, I'm even more tired of any change in booze rules--happy hour, growlers, wholesaler lock-ins, liquor licenses, etc--being met with moaning that it'll drive people out of business. If you need crappy distortions of the market to function, maybe you should go out of business!

    Are breweries fleeing the NY area because of their liberal growler laws? Doesn't look like it.
  9. messrock

    messrock Initiate (176) Dec 9, 2010 Massachusetts

    "Small Massachusetts Brewer" a/k/a Contract Brewer that has no means of direct distribution/sales.
  10. GonzoHomebrewer

    GonzoHomebrewer Devotee (481) Sep 15, 2012 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Considering what I've heard firsthand in alcohol classes for service people from ABC, they know very little about the product they are in charge of and because of this unbelievable lack of knowledge and total ignorance in regards, I highly doubt they could change enough to allow growlers.

    Just some completely wrong information that was told to people who were there to be trained to properly serve alcohol: dark beer has more alcohol, one person can have a bottle of wine to themselves but not a pitcher of beer et al.

    Until they get people over at the ABC that actually know something about alcohol, nothing will change in this state. The only state with a more ignorant alcohol board in this region IMO is New Hampshire.

    Thank god for the amazing distribution/selection we have though :slight_smile:
  11. emannths

    emannths Aspirant (203) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    This part is true. A person dining alone may order a bottle of wine "with a meal," but otherwise they may not be served more than two drinks simultaneously (i.e., they may not order a pitcher of beer).
  12. GonzoHomebrewer

    GonzoHomebrewer Devotee (481) Sep 15, 2012 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Which to me, is crazy. ABV wise, a pitcher of beer isn't even close to most bottles of wine, yet its justified because of wine culture. I just wish they'd stop using generic stereotypes to write regulations. Its really no different than the states down south that won't allow high abv beer, but have no problems selling bourbon. Sometimes I wonder if hypocrisy is required to be considered a real government :rolling_eyes:

    I wish the ABC in MA would hire some people with Cicerone certification or bring someone from the industry in as a consultant so they could come into the 21st century in regards to beer, but I doubt it happens.
  13. emannths

    emannths Aspirant (203) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Yeah, most MA stuff is written with the "except wine" approach. Beer people might have some success adding "and beer" to that, and the ABCC seems at least somewhat receptive to adding more flexibility when it comes to beer.

    This particular rule, though, is part of the happy hour laws, so it's going to be much harder to change than the general ABCC rules or even the MGL 138 stuff, I suspect.

    IMHO, the first order of business should be getting the ABCC to explicitly enumerate the labeling requirements for growlers, and then if necessary liberalize those so that breweries can fill third-party glass. Then we can start chipping away at allowing fills by retailers and bars.
    woosterbill and GonzoHomebrewer like this.
  14. GonzoHomebrewer

    GonzoHomebrewer Devotee (481) Sep 15, 2012 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    When I first moved to Framingham, I had a long talk with the person who was the manager at Julios in westboro at the time about having a growler station and he said they were working on it from their end, but had no idea how it would go. That was four years ago this fall.

    The growler labeling definitely needs clarification first and foremost. I would love to hear from the ABCC about why the growler labeling is written currently as it makes absolutely no sense to me and in some instances, I feel certain breweries actually take advantage of it. I have a giant German stein-styled growler that has never been used again from Wachusett brewing because that was the only growler they were selling when I was there.

    I feel like there's a big enough contingency in the NE forum that if we all sent emails to our reps and senators, we might actually be able to do something about it. Only takes a couple minutes, heck maybe later today I'll write a base email MA BAs could send :slight_smile:
  15. willbm3

    willbm3 Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    No more hipsters please
    runpmc007 and SunDevilBeer like this.
  16. HighLowJack

    HighLowJack Disciple (356) Jun 5, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I don't understand this. if I could fill any growler at a given brewery, I would be more likely to go there and fill up. I would think they would need to keg more beer if they took away the barrier of needing to buy glass.

    Edit: I guess you're referring to the brewer who said kegs are less profitable than bottle sales. but I think that's a short sighted POV. a brewery selling much more beer has to be a good thing in the long run

    and if growlers fills were such an evil, then why do they do them at all?
  17. willbm3

    willbm3 Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    This is much more important to me (and much easier to accomplish) than growler fill stations. I can think of no good reason why MA brewers can't fill any 64oz growler.
    Completely agree. Other states don't seem to be having any issues with these laws. If the brewers make good beer, people will buy it...if they don't, we don't need the state to protect their business
    GonzoHomebrewer likes this.
  18. MGambleWWS

    MGambleWWS Initiate (0) Nov 12, 2007 Massachusetts

    1 bottle of wine is 750ML of (for the sake of this discussion) 12% ABV liquid. 750 * .12 = 90ML of ethanol

    Beer pitchers are usually 60oz or 1770ML, so if you have a beer that's 5% ABV it's effectively the same amount of ethanol as a single bottle of wine at 12%.

    If I owned my own bar or restaurant, I'd be hesitant about serving a single person that much alcohol regardless of what it was, because it is ultimately the owner of the businesses responsibility to not overserve their patrons and I don't know many people who could be considered sober after housing a bottle of cabernet or a pitcher of IPA.

    There is also the issue of wine only coming in 750ml bottles and forcing restaurants to only offer glass service to individual patrons would either limit the amount of wines available for service or greatly increase the complexity (and cost) of the wine by the glass program, whereas draft beer can be easily served in individual servings, so there really isn't a great reason for someone to order a whole pitcher for themselves at once.
  19. willbm3

    willbm3 Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    I don't fully understand it either and I'm in the same boat as you; I would be much more inclined to fill a growler at a brewery if I could get my cheap glass filled rather than buying one from them. As far as kegs being less profitable, I don't get it. Yes, bombers are a ripoff...but a 6 pack usually retails for less than the cost of a growler (and that involves costs of glass, bottling line, distribution, retailer markup, etc.). Not to single anyone out, but doesn't a growler at Trillium go for $15? And I believe Harpoon growlers are in the $10 range, no? Not exactly bargains
  20. Sesmu

    Sesmu Aspirant (239) Feb 28, 2007 Massachusetts

    Go for it. No, seriously, just draft something, it can be reviewed here, if you don't mind, and...
  21. willbm3

    willbm3 Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    Also, you can cork the wine and take it to go.
  22. MattOC

    MattOC Aspirant (236) Jan 13, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Empty growlers cost $5 for the 64 oz. at Trillium. I got mine before they offered 32 oz.
  23. emannths

    emannths Aspirant (203) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    This would be reasonable, but the law also excepts carafes of wine.
  24. willbm3

    willbm3 Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    Plus $15 to fill, right?
  25. MattOC

    MattOC Aspirant (236) Jan 13, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Yes, more or less depending on which beer. I was simply giving you the price of the glass itself.
  26. cbeer88

    cbeer88 Crusader (719) Sep 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    This quote annoys me so much.

    First off, other states do it, and breweries survive just fine. So there are already a billion counter-examples disproving that point completely.

    Second, why should your business model rely on government protection? It's beer, not an electric grid.

    All you do is raise your prices on kegs to compensate for the lost bottle sales. If your beer isn't good enough to support the higher keg prices, then that's a completely different issue, and one you should probably work on to stay competitive.

    The beer industry can be so anti-consumer sometimes...
  27. Jason

    Jason Founder (8,019) Aug 23, 1996 Massachusetts
    Staff Beer Trader

    If they are already near capacity and major expansions plans are not in reach yet then it is a problem ... we are assuming they have the capital or revenue to be able to expand to a volume that would be just as profitable. This would most likely be hiring people in hopes that growth continues. Yes, I agree in the long run it is a good thing but the transition to get there will be ugly ... I would not be surprised to see some closures due to it.
  28. GonzoHomebrewer

    GonzoHomebrewer Devotee (481) Sep 15, 2012 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Granted I was off more than I thought without actually doing the math myself, it is still the state saying consume the amount of alcohol in wine form=good but consume same alcohol in beer form= bad, its illogical.

    And I've been in many bars, saying a pitcher to a single person is the norm would be beyond a stretch, but I've seen plenty of single person orders of a whole bottle of wine. My beef is the state says the wine is ok, yet frowns upon the beer. Its blatant social bias
  29. emannths

    emannths Aspirant (203) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Due to growler sales? If kegs were that unprofitable, we wouldn't see brewers open breweries with draft-only sales, would we?

    I don't run a brewery, but no brewery actually opens their books when making absurd claims like this, so I have little reason to believe that it's any more than posturing. At the very least, they should indicate the difference in wholesale price between the two packaging formats, what percent is kegs and what percent is bottles, and what they expect that ratio to be after the law changes.
  30. Seacoastbrewer

    Seacoastbrewer Aspirant (215) Jun 5, 2012 New Hampshire

    I think another factor here is that when breweries sell kegs for growler fills (offsite in this case), they are still selling kegs, albeit at a lower markup. This is still additional income, and I suspect breweries would have significantly more reach this way. Maybe that consumer 50 miles away doesn't want to drive to the brewery to fill a growler, but they will drive to their local packy and fill up a growler there.
  31. Auror

    Auror Defender (644) Jan 1, 2010 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I'd love to see this changed, but I'd love even more for MA breweries to fill growlers other than just their own.
    woosterbill likes this.
  32. Janeinma

    Janeinma Devotee (422) May 24, 2009 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    something I am seeing more and more is the online petitions actually getting action. In the UK it actually shamed some firms into paying their way with taxes. Saying that I would prefer action taken on requiring beer prices and volumes to be both displayed and honored, Jason so totally had it right about how vital that is.
    But seriously - unbranded growlers - with a unwritten consensus about the type of growlers being sold how could it really hurt? Add a sticker that says 'this is a used growler, if you hand it over dirty your loss'.
  33. SunDevilBeer

    SunDevilBeer Zealot (563) May 9, 2003 Massachusetts

    Really - for all the dumb anti-consumer beer laws in MA (limited licenses, max-min pricing, no "happy hour" discounting, archaic distro laws, etc) we're supposed to get excited to pay top-dollar growler pricing for beer? Yawn.
  34. MGambleWWS

    MGambleWWS Initiate (0) Nov 12, 2007 Massachusetts

    I agree with this point a lot. If the passed the law allowing for bars to sell growlers, within 24 hours we'd be seeing threads like "Boston bar growler prices are a ripoff!" etc. I'm all for allowing breweries to fill whatever growlers they want to fill, but bars selling them is going to go over like a lead balloon. Buying a draft pint is already the most expensive way to by a beer ($/oz) so what's going to make anyone want to pay those prices just to bring the same stuff home they could get at the grocery store?
    SunDevilBeer likes this.
  35. emannths

    emannths Aspirant (203) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Nah, everyone's mind seems to go to mush the moment they see big bottles. Asking a BA to divide a price 22(oz) is hard enough--no one's going to be able to divide it by 64.
  36. cbeer88

    cbeer88 Crusader (719) Sep 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    It would really depend on the beer.

    Would anyone ever pay $25 for a growler of Harpoon IPA when they can buy an entire case at the store at that price? No, probably not.

    But would I pay $25 for a fresh growler of Sculpin vs $8 for a 4 month old bomber at the store? Maybe.

    That said, I actually care less about bars and more about stores/supermarkets being able to fill growlers. Beer by the keg is usually the most economical route, so a store, in theory, should have really good prices on growler fills. (And they usually do in other states)
  37. BearsOnAcid

    BearsOnAcid Savant (968) Mar 17, 2009 Washington
    Beer Trader

    If we had access to the type of stuff Philly and NYC gets then I'd be down with growler stations. When I think about what stores here would offer it doesn't really sound like it's worth it. I'd be most interested in the one-offs from the new smaller breweries but their distribution is so small already that it's just as easy to get growlers there and skip the store markup, growler limits, and whatever else might happen. Then what would the filler stuff be between those beers? jack d'or and hoponius? Maybe a $30 growler of founders all day IPA.
  38. JrGtr

    JrGtr Devotee (408) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    Most bars I've been to won't sell a bottle of wine to a single person at a shot - seeing people order and drink 5 or 6 glasses is another story (comes to about the same amount) That I have seen, not that the customer should have been served in all cases.
  39. Leebo

    Leebo Initiate (180) Feb 7, 2013 Massachusetts

    Any growler at any brewery? How would you get around the label laws, that should be the first legislative hurdle.
  40. SunDevilBeer

    SunDevilBeer Zealot (563) May 9, 2003 Massachusetts

    Plus - I'm sure ur thrilled at the concept of installing (& more so) maintaining a growler station at yr store. :wink:
    Was in upstate NY last month & saw it in action at several retail locations, including a few gas stations...Yuck. Aside from a brewery selling them I really don't understand the whole growler attraction.
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