Rep. Heffernan Bill Would Allow Liquor Stores to Sell Growlers of Draft Beer

Mar 08, 2013 -- 9:43am

Liquor store owners and local breweries toasted legislation Rep. Debra Heffernan unveiled Thursday that could have craft beer drinkers raising a pint in celebration.

Flanked by liquor store and Delaware craft brewery owners at Peco’s Liquor Store in Wilmington, Rep. Heffernan introduced a proposal to allow Delaware liquor stores to fill and sell growlers of draught beer on site. A growler is a glass or ceramic jug filled with draught beer, typically sold in a 64-ounce (half gallon) size. Currently, craft breweries can only sell growlers at their breweries or brewpub. Neighboring states Pennsylvania and New Jersey already allow liquor stores to sell growlers, while Maryland’s law is done on county-by-county basis.

Breweries often produce draught beer varieties that are only available at their brewery or brewpub, which limits craft beer drinkers’ ability to purchase certain varieties. By allowing liquor stores to sell growlers, Rep. Heffernan said that Delaware’s small craft breweries would be able to expand their market and reach more customers, while liquor stores would be able to compete with stores in neighboring states.

The craft beer industry exploded during the past 20 years, with the number of breweries operating in the U.S. mushrooming from about 300 in 1990 to more than 2,100 as of June 2012, with 2,075 being defined as craft breweries, according to the Brewers Association. The number of craft breweries has grown from 1,749 in 2010 to 2,126 last year.

Additionally, the craft brewing industry grew 13 percent by volume and 15 percent by dollars in 2011, while overall beer sales in 2011 were down 1.3 percent by volume. Sales increased by an additional 12 percent by volume and 14 percent by dollars in the first half of 2012, according to the Brewers Association. The Delaware Brewers Guild estimates that state craft brewers produced about 250,000 barrels of beer last year.

Greenville Brewery Twin Lakes Brewing has been crafting ales, stouts and lager beers since 2006. While the company sells growlers at its Kennett Pike Brewery, co-founder and CEO Samuel Hobbs said that Rep. Heffernan’s bill would open new doors to the company.

Under House Bill 31, liquor stores could purchase a growler filler permit for $150 every two years, allowing them to fill, cap and sell growlers to go.

According to the Brewers Association, craft brewers and brewpubs provide more than 100,000 jobs in the U.S. Delaware ranks 10th in the nation for capita per brewery with nine breweries operating throughout all three counties.

Liquor store owners and craft breweries throughout the state have indicated their support of the legislation.

HB 31 has been assigned to the House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance & Commerce Committee.

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