It has been promised for some time and today it has finally happened, Pinglehead Brewing – the beer production segment of Brewer’s Pizza – has achieved what, to some, is the seemingly impossible: they are now licensed and legally able to sell the beer they make on-premises in growlers. And soon, they will be kegging and distributing their beer to area restaurants and bars, so you will be able to get a pint of the tasty Pinglehead Red at establishments other than Brewer’s Pizza.
Why did this take so long and what is the big deal about selling beer they make at Brewer’s/Pinglehead to patrons at the restaurant/brewery? In a few words; Florida law.
Due to the byzantine nature of Florida beer laws, all Florida breweries, even the smallest, mom and pop operations, must use a distributor to sell their products to retail. Brewpubs, such as Brewer’s Pizza and Engine 15, can brew their own beer and sell for on-premises consumption, but they cannot sell their own beer in growlers for off-site consumption. This law in particular rubs brewpub owners wrong since they can sell other brewery’s products in growlers, just not their own.
Most of these laws have ties to the state of the beer industry before Prohibition. Before the country went dry, breweries often owned bars and sold lots of beer for very low prices. The combination of low prices and brewery-owned establishments led to over consumption in the eyes of do-gooders. It also led to fierce competition among breweries for consumer share.
After Prohibition, laws were passed to keep the breweries in check and to prevent them from owning bars and keeping beer prices too low. The thinking was that higher beer prices would encourage moderation. The three-tier system was introduced in which brewers were required to be separated from the retail sale of beer by a middleman or distributer. This system effectively inflated the price of beer by requiring another entity to handle the product and add charges because of their handling. Essentially this meant that in order for a brewery to sell beer for off-premises consumption, they have to package the beer in a bottle, can or keg, a distributor has to pick the beer up and transport it to heir warehouse, then the distributor must take the packaged beer to a retail location for sale to the public. What this literally means is that even if a keg of beer is brewed right next door to a tavern, the tavern could not simply go next door to purchase a keg of beer; they must order it from the distributor who may be all the way on the other side of town.
To make things even more difficult, in the state of Florida, entities are only allowed to hold a license in one tier of the three-tier system. This law is what prevented Brewer’s Pizza from the retail sales of beer for off-premises consumption. Because Brewer’s Pizza already held a license for retail beer sales, they could not get one for manufacturing beer. Therefore, they had to go through the long process of separating the brewery from the restaurant, and then license the brewery as a manufacturer of beer under the Pinglehead name.
Confused? Many people are.
The bottom line is, now that Pinglehead is a licensed manufacturer, they can hire a distributer to sell their beer to other bars and restaurants. The brewery can also sell beer for off-premises consumption at its brewery location just as Intuition Ale Works, Bold City, and Green Room can. And that is cause for celebration.
In the coming weeks expect to see Piinglehead showing up in a few bars and as a featured beer at the upcoming Jacksonville Craft and Import Beer Festival, May 18.