Unbeknownst to many beer lovers in Florida, the size of the container in which your favorite brew is packaged has been a hotly debated topic in Tallahassee for quite some time. Back in 1959, Florida legislatures passed House Bill 563.06, this law placed restrictions on malt beverages and the containers in which they can be packaged. That short piece of legislature has changed the way that Floridians can enjoy beer for over 50 years.
To many, the law is overly restrictive and, well silly. So, why was the law put into place at all? According to an article in the Florida Times-Union on June 20, 1999, the law may have been put into place, at least in part, because legislators “were mad at Miller Brewing Co. for building a plant in Georgia instead of Florida and in effect outlawed a 7-ounce bottle sold by Miller.”
A Florida Senate document from September 1999 titled, Review of the Malt Beverage Container Size Restrictions lays out many of the arguments that have been made as to why the law should not be changed. Some of these include:
- Beer prices might rise due to increased competition
- Multiple container sizes might confuse unwary consumers
- Container sizes larger than 32 ounces may encourage over-drinking or send the wrong message to young people
The current law places Florida craft brewers at a distinct disadvantage to similar brewers in other states. This is because the most common growler size across the country is 64 ounces or a half gallon. And if you think about it 64 ounces is a size that makes more sense than the 32 or 128 ounce growlers that are currently allowed by Florida law. A 32 ounce growler contains enough brew for approximately two pint glasses of beer or a little over two and a half bottles or cans of beer. If you have a friend over, that is not really a lot of beer. On the other end of the spectrum, a gallon growler is too much beer for a single sitting yet, once a growler is opened, it must be consumed relatively quickly of it will go flat.
But, now there is a House Bill, presented by Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, that would allow breweries to sell 64 ounce growlers. The bill, HB 715, does not change any other portion of the current malt beverage laws in Florida, however. What it does do though, is put Florida breweries on even footing with their competitors in other states and give Florida beer consumers the opportunity to bring home fresh beer in a size that is more convenient.
In the past, attempts to change the growler laws have met steep opposition and failure. But this year, Edwards has an ally in Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa. An article in the Sarasota Herald-tribune from February 15 of this year quotes one of Young’s aides, Ryan Terrell, as saying, “We’re just attempting to deal with the size issue. That’s where the economic development will come into place.”
Young’s district includes Cigar City Brewing Company, a brewery keen to see the size restrictions changed as are others across the state.
You can follow the progress of the bill by going to http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2013/0715 and setting up a Bill Tracker account.
- Everybody Wins When You Buy a Growler (kcet.org)