MN law regarding take-out (e.g. growler, crowler, etc.) sales at breweries

Discussion in 'Midwest' started by MNAle, Jun 14, 2018.

  1. MNAle

    MNAle Meyvn (1,034) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    The on-going thread on the Beer Talk forum "Crowlers vs Growlers" got me looking into MN statutes regulating these.

    The MN law listings I can find (i.e. CHAPTER 340A. LIQUOR) don't seem to even make crowlers legal - 750ml bottles and 64 oz growlers are all I can find in the law, but you see crowlers all over, so they MUST be legal, right?

    Can anyone point me to what off-sale sizes are legal for which kind of brewing license?

  2. sean_mpls

    sean_mpls Initiate (109) Sep 11, 2012 Minnesota

    "Under the broad federal definition, Crowler sales are legal in Minnesota, according to the AGED."

    So, 750ml crowlers are allowed since "bottle" isn't defined and it takes on the federal definition to be much more broad.

    I'm still waiting for a brewery to sell me beer in a 750ml paint can.
    #2 sean_mpls, Jun 14, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018
  3. BigIslandfarmer

    BigIslandfarmer Aspirant (265) Sep 30, 2016 Minnesota

    I always buy at least 2 crowlers at a time so I'm legal! :wink:

    Edit: Does that mean I can only by crowlers in even numbers so I stay at multiples of 64? lol
  4. islay

    islay Aspirant (203) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    Cans are considered a type of bottle under federal alcohol laws, and Minnesota chose to interpret its statute consistent with the federal definition of bottles. Sociable Cider Werks is the hero brewery that successfully pushed the issue in 2015.

    Minnesotan breweries are limited to packaging in 64 oz. containers and 750 ml bottles but are allowed to refill any container of any size (a fact little recognized).
    stinsonwbs, TimJohnsonMN and kccoop07 like this.
  5. SipIt

    SipIt Initiate (171) Jul 18, 2013 Minnesota

    Except crowlers are 750ml which is not 32oz.
  6. Spewlander

    Spewlander Initiate (78) May 17, 2014 Minnesota

    I’ve been told by a couple places that they won’t fill my corny kegs. So is that just because they don’t want to?

    In OR and AK we used just take the kegs straight to the taproom and get them filled. We’d see people in AK even get old milk jugs filled.
  7. gudbrande

    gudbrande Disciple (380) Jul 10, 2009 Minnesota
    Premium Trader

    According to section 340A.285, a brew pub or brewer may, at the request of the customer, fill any container for off-sale provided that it is sealed and labeled according to the provisions outlined in paragraph (a) of the section and is filled from the tap at the time of sale. The labeling requirements state that the "...containers or bottles shall be identified as malt liquor, contain the name of the malt liquor, bear the name and address of the brew pub or brewer selling the malt liquor..." So, if I were to bring some other kind of container that had the correct labeling in to a brewery, they could fill it, but I don't know of any that would.

    It is interesting to note that breweries who fill growlers from other breweries technically don't adhere to the statute unless they put their own label on it (which does seem to happen more frequently now than it did in the past). Additionally, there are requirements for the seal that is placed on the growler or bottle (The adhesive band, strip, or sleeve shall bear the name and address of the brewer), and I don't recall ever seeing that done.
    kccoop07 likes this.
  8. kccoop07

    kccoop07 Initiate (31) Dec 26, 2013 Minnesota

    Interesting take on customer's "container or bottle" size. I've always assumed it was referring to the section (a) definitions where "container" = 64oz and "bottle" = 750ml. I can see the more open interpretation, although I wouldn't be the first to push it...
  9. TimJohnsonMN

    TimJohnsonMN Initiate (40) Dec 24, 2009 Minnesota

    Any size? Really? No. The state is not allowing you to pull up with a 50 gal drum for a brewery to fill.
  10. gudbrande

    gudbrande Disciple (380) Jul 10, 2009 Minnesota
    Premium Trader

    The question is whether any container or bottle that the customer provides would be limited to a growler or a 750 milliliter bottle. It seems like one could make an argument that it would not be.
  11. TimJohnsonMN

    TimJohnsonMN Initiate (40) Dec 24, 2009 Minnesota

    So breweries that get to charge more per ounce for a growler (with no middle man) than they do for a six pack (with a middle man taking a cut) won't fill your corny keg because... they hate profit? Also, by that interpretation what's stopping every bar from "buying" empty kegs that breweries refill? Maybe the statute isn't explicit but the state's application is not that liberal.
  12. islay

    islay Aspirant (203) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    Sure it is, as long as the container can be and is properly sealed and labeled. Show me in the law where filling a 50 gallon drum is prohibited. Show me an administrative interpretation indicating it's prohibited. The language of the law is plain and clear. Most states, as far as I know, have no restrictions on the size of containers that consumers may purchase from breweries.

    The law was changed several years ago in a way that allowed breweries to fill "any container or bottle." The previous language allowed them only to fill "any growler," which previously was defined as a 64 ounce container. The impetus for the change in the law is unclear, but it might've been motivated by consumers who desired the ability to fill their 32 ounce, liter, and 2 liter sized containers purchased in other states.

    1. It's difficult to price for non-standard containers.
    2. It may be difficult properly to seal and, to a lesser extent, label non-standard containers.
    3. It's time-consuming to fill large containers from the tap.
    4. Filling from the tap produces a loss in carbonation, and so a large container filled from a tap must be consumed very quickly before going flat.
    5. Many people (including you) remain under the mistaken belief that it's illegal to fill non-standard containers from the tap.
    6. Some breweries are afraid to push the issue in case the state misinterprets the law in a way that is adverse to them.
    Bars are limited to proper distribution channels by other statutes. If the bar is purchasing from a brewery that legally self-distributes, I'm not sure what the advantage to the bar would be from having a keg refilled at the tap at the time of sale.
  13. TimJohnsonMN

    TimJohnsonMN Initiate (40) Dec 24, 2009 Minnesota

    I've asked MN Alcohol & Gambling Enforcement. Feel free to do the same and let me know if you get a different response. I don't think it'd be a bad thing, necessarily. But alcohol is a regulated and taxed product. It's difficult for the state to do either of those things if people are just showing up with any size of sealable vessel.
  14. gudbrande

    gudbrande Disciple (380) Jul 10, 2009 Minnesota
    Premium Trader

    I think this is key to understanding the intent of the statute. I was looking through the version list for that chapter and section and I can't find where it changed. Was it in a different section before? Can you point me to the previous wording of the statute?

    It seems like if the authors of the statute intended "any container or bottle" to mean a growler or a 750 milliliter bottle, they would have actually said "growler or a 750 milliliter bottle" in paragraph (b) instead.
  15. islay

    islay Aspirant (203) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    Sure. Here is the 2014 (i.e., the old) language, which limits refills specifically to growlers:

    (b) A brewer may, but is not required to, refill any growler with malt liquor for off-sale at the request of a customer. A brewer refilling a growler must do so at its licensed premises and the growler must be filled at the tap at the time of sale. A growler refilled under this paragraph must be sealed and labeled in the manner described in paragraph (a).

    The law regulates (i.e., "makes regular") the size of packaged products, limiting them to 64 ounce growlers and 750 ml bottles (interpreted to include 750 ml crowlers). The primary purpose of that restriction is to protect the distributors and retailers (i.e., the other two tiers in the three tier system) by limiting breweries to selling their packaged beers in inconvenient sizes while still allowing consumers to walk out of breweries with beer in hand. The old law restricted refills just to 64 ounce growlers, but that was a frustrating limitation to consumers walking into breweries with non-standard-sized containers. Because refills from the tap (as opposed to packaged products) tend not to receive distribution, it's not surprising that the state would permit more leeway for refills, as they produce less opportunity for or competition to distributors and retailers than do packaged products. Again, as far as I know, most states, including most neighboring states, don't put any size limitations on beer sold by breweries, either in packaged or refilled form, so it's hard for me to understand why so many people seem so dubious.

    And, yes, if legislators didn't mean to permit "any container" to be refilled, they easily could've stuck with the "any growler" language (or added "any 750 ml bottle" if they intended to extend refills only to growlettes).
  16. gudbrande

    gudbrande Disciple (380) Jul 10, 2009 Minnesota
    Premium Trader

    Based on the changes that were made (thanks to islay for the link) they didn't accidentally introduce a loophole into the statue. It seems intentional.
  17. KarlHungus

    KarlHungus Poo-Bah (3,025) Feb 19, 2005 Minnesota

    That's based upon the assumption that our legislators are competent.
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  18. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (3,707) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota

    Does anyone think there is any chance Minnesota will eventually allow what Wisconsin and North Dakota allows:

    Growler fills at Liquor stores and Bars.

    The bars that I've seen offer this usually jack the prices up quite a bit (Brick and Barley, Grand Forks, JL Beers Grand Forks) but some good deals can be had at Casanova's and Happy Harry's etc.

    This would be the #1 change to current laws I'd like to see.

    I can go either way on the Grocery Store/ Convenience Store strong beer sales thing. I guess I'd lean towards allowing it but I'm ok with the current system even thought 3.2 beer is the dumbest concept out there (Regular Busch Light is actually 3.2 % by weight as are many other light beers and those that aren't are real close). Could just as easily change the law to just allow light beer sales rather than 3.2% by weight but I digress.

    Later hours for liquor stores would be good but I can live with the current system. I will say though it was nice when I lived in ND getting done with work at 10:30 PM and still being able to stop off and buy some off-sale beer at the liquor store on the way home.
    BigIslandfarmer likes this.
  19. Chaz

    Chaz Poo-Bah (1,956) Feb 3, 2002 Minnesota
    Premium Trader

    Right here, I want to add something about blind squirrels and nuts.
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