Growlin’ Mad in California

Craft Beer California

Let me first backtrack a little and set the scene. I live in Southern California. I have ONE brewery near me, one brewery sorta near me and two or three that are drives to reach under the best freeway conditions. Secondly, I am what economists term as “underemployed.” Not complaining but not swimming in steady cash. Lastly, I do not have unlimited shelf space. I have a small and growing “beer cellar,” but I am reaching overload in beers I can hoard as well as in pint glasses, bottles and beer T-shirts.

Now I can return to my rant. I would like to have one growler. A growler that I can fill at my local Eagle Rock Brewery, but that I can also fill at Ladyface in Agoura Hills or Hangar 24 in Redlands or at Nibble Bit Tabby downtown. I don’t A) have the space for separate growlers and B) can’t afford them anyway.

I know that current law is against this. They want growlers labeled in a similar fashion as to labels on beer sold conventionally in stores. It is a pure CYA choice. But why do we want something similar to the sometimes comical and irritating label laws in place? Can the state cover it’s…with a different approach?

Here is my idea to solve the problem and boost the economy:

Step 1 – a “Made in California” growler. It could be sold by Chambers of Commerce or by the California Brewers Association or other outlets. I would refrain from having the breweries themselves sell them so as not to impinge on their own growler sales. Maybe part of the proceeds from the sales could go to a brewer scholarship fund?

Step 2 – Create a label/sticker that can be filled out on the premises at the time the growler is filled with a link to the beer’s information on the brewer’s website. Maybe via a barcode? Seal it up and you can have a great beer for watching football (or English Premier League football in my case).

A California growler would be accepted by whichever brewery wanted to make a $10 sale vs. a sale of $0.00. At least from my standpoint. I couldn’t buy (though I was tempted) a growler from Hangar 24 to bring home some of their Polycot beer (which was great) but if I had a California growler at home, Hangar 24 would have received $15 from me. The same at Stone in Escondido or Fifty Fifty Brewing in Truckee. And for those establishments that cannot afford to get approved growlers, this would be entree to a new customer set.

It would also be a great way to promote the great beer you can find in this state. You could do a great promotion about a growler tour of California breweries. The nationwide beer community makes pilgrimages to Russian River and The Bruery. Why not incentivize them to stay a little and see more of the state? You can even promote a design contest for the growler. You could have the governor bring California beer to the next Presidential beer summit. There are so many marketing and outreach possibilities.

The beer for this week is from a brewery in Washington state that was part of the first craft brewing boom that many people haven’t tried lately if at all. It is Redhook and they have a callback with a twist. It is Big Ballard Imperial IPA. A 22-ounce bomber of hoppiness. Redhook, at the beginning, was known for their Ballard bitter. It has since fallen out of favor as the brewery has grown and become part of a brewing mini-empire. Now is a chance to re-acquaint yourself with a piece of brewing history.

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.


Sean Inman

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

Blog Comments

[…] while back you may have run across my growler post at FoodGPS. I have started reading up on California Beer Laws to see what I can do to make some effective […]

Thanks for the responses. I’m glad I am not the only one thinking about this. I am going to have to see if I can unite California beer bloggers behind this to see if it feasible so that a petition can start circulating. I will do some research and report back.

AMEN!!! Someone start a petition that we can all sign. I think this is a fantastic idea.

Here’s another idea. If you’re a brewery that sells 220z bottles, why not allow me to bring in a used bottle from your brewery (with label still affixed) and get a bomber fill instead of a growler fill? If I really want 64 oz, I can get three. If it’s more work to do this, put a limit on how many bottles a person can have filled. This would solve the problem of breweries filling their own glass, and also solve the problem of the consumer having to pay some exorbitant fee for a jug with a logo on it.

From an ounce perspective, it would seem that a brewery uses more glass in a 72 oz six pack than a 64 oz growler and yet somehow they don’t charge you an extra $22 for that glass. And by the way, $22 for a growler from Eagle Rock is borderline insulting. Here’s a link to growler glass prices in Chicago from major breweries. They range from $3 to a whopping $4.

This is such a great idea, I hope it doesn’t just end as an idea on a blog. If anyone knows where to start to actually pursue this for real please respond. With enough names or inquiries this could gain some real traction and how great if it all started here!

In the coffee industry some cafes get together and go in on a Disloyalty card now I am not saying give away free beer at all. Rather couldn’t a multiple friendly brewers put their labels on one growler to share the wealth as it were?


I’ve found breweries to be quite supportive of one another. Just think of all the collaborative beers on the market. If given the option, they would no doubt unite to better serve beer drinkers. However, in this case, it’s the law that’s the limitation.

I think you’re on to something; my understanding of the current law is that it allows for the sticker idea. in fact, cismontane brewery down here in orange county agrees and has labels that they will slap on your growler if you come in for a fill. we need to get this idea out to the other brewers around.. i have four freaking growlers and it is really annoying.

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