There are a few ways to deal with a problem. You can ignore it, and hope it doesn’t affect you. You can protest, and try to block the problem from happening. Or you can adapt, and force the situation back into something acceptable.
I’m all about protest, but sometimes you don’t win. And I’m not about ignoring a problem, or letting a situation get the best of me. I’m about change. Changing the scenario to fit my needs, or changing my needs to fit the scenario.
Let’s change the scene.
First, let’s set the scene.
Let’s assume the bill passes, and grocery stores can sell full strength beer. And let’s assume it’s as bad as everyone says. Our ability to find higher end bombers and smaller brewers diminishes. Granted, places like Argonaut Liquors and Total Bev aren’t going anywhere. Smaller places like Littles, Sip, or Joy Wine & Spirits should have a big enough customer base now, due to their knowledgable staff and niche selection, that they’ll survive. I hope.
(For more information about the bill, we’ve created a bundle of articles.)
So the craft beer drinker who really wants to explore new breweries is still going to find them. The problem affects new breweries exposing themselves to new customers. And for those of us who are little lazier, we might be less apt to find the new thing, because something we know and love is available right next to the Ben & Jerry’s, an aisle after the Doritos, and 5 minutes before we grab our steak for the night. The 17 year old grocer at King Soopers probably isn’t going to help you explore local stouts.
The scene is set. The problem that needs fixing is two-fold:
As a consumer, how am I going to learn about new breweries, beers, and trends, without the neighborhood liquor store employees and marketing showing me them. (Ignore the beer geeks who spend all day researching these things, for now)
As a brewery, how am I going to introduce myself and my new beers to my target market if the consumer-facing tier isn’t helping me anymore?
Of course, there’s also the “As a liquor store owner, I’m screwed. How do I not become screwed?” But I don’t really have any answer for that. I would love to hear some ideas though!
My solution is a half gallon glass jug with a small handle.
Beer bars are already the face of the industry. You meet new taps, tastes, and trends while sipping something at Falling Rock, or trying a new bottle recommended to you by the knowledgable staff at Freshcraft. The servers at Rackhouse will point you in a new direction, Hops & Pie pairs the perfect slice with a stout, and Euclid Hall ensures excellence with a mussels Saison duo.
Why not let the people with the knowledge and passion, not to mention the license to sell liquor, sell beer to go? It’s the perfect sales setting: Willing customers come in looking for something new. They can try a few things, figure out what they like, and then purchase a growler to bring home. They can share it with friends or keep it for themselves. When it’s empty, return to the bar for the next fill.
There are some pros, cons, and laws about this idea. First, the laws. Sadly, reasoning behind laws are generally not published along with the law itself. That might help us decipher things in a few instances. Alas, we merely have the law itself. Here are some of the laws currently preventing growler sales. These laws relate to general establishments licensed to sell alcohol. Later we’ll look at extended laws that allow for brewpubs and breweries to sell growlers.
Regulation 47-008. Fermented Malt Beverages – Limitations of License.
A. No person licensed for on-premises consumption only, shall sell fermented malt beverages in sealed containers, or permit the removal from the licensed premisesof any fermented malt beverages in either sealed or unsealed containers.
B. No person licensed for off-premises consumption only, shall sell, by the drink, any open container of fermented malt beverage, or permit the consumption of any fermented malt beverages within the licensed premises.
This states that having a license for on premise sales means you cannot sell liquor to be taken off premise, and vice versa.
Regulation 47-918. Removal of Alcohol Beverages from Premises.
A. Other than those licensees described in Section 12-47-421(2)(a), who may permit a patron to reseal a partially consumed bottle of vinous liquor (not to exceed 750 ml) which was originally sold for on premises consumption; no licensee, manageror agent of any establishment licensed for on-premises consumption shall permit the removal from the licensed premises of any alcohol beverages in sealed or unsealed containers,
B. Licensees described in paragraph A of this regulation who permit a patron to remove a partially consumed bottle of vinous liquor shall reseal the bottle with a cork or other commercially manufactured stopper.
C. Patrons transporting a partially consumed bottle of vinous liquor in a motor vehicle shall comply with the requirements of 42-4-1305, C.R.S
This one states that it’s ok to remove wine you’ve been drinking at dinner – as long as you already had a little out of the bottle.
I can see some excuses for why this is a bad idea. Bars aren’t liquor stores. They shouldn’t have beer leaving the premises. What about the neighborhood! Here’s the thing though: bars are already allowed to serve alcohol. Anyone entering the establishment is already legally allowed to purchase alcohol. The bar is already set up to ensure people drinking are doing so safely. It’s illegal to serve alcohol to an intoxicated individual.
Some other cons are the pour itself, as well as the growler. If a bartender fills the growler poorly, the beer inside won’t taste great. Too much splashing, you’ll get oxidized beer. This reflects poorly on the brewery. Likewise, a dirty growler will have a similar effect, and reflects poorly on the brewery.
While these are good arguments, I think a little training would fix any issues, and the pros far outweigh the cons.
The pros are numerous: a knowledgable staff selling beer a customer has had the chance to try, in a reusable container. I could go on and on about these, but I feel that this is self-explanatory. Please, stop me if it’s not.
Breweries and brewpubs can currently sell growlers. It’s an additional license. Allowing bars to do so is just an extension of this. Currently, the law states that a brewery can sell a product they make on premise for off premise consumption. The brewpub license states:
(2) [...] malt liquors manufactured by a brew pub licensee on the licensed premises or alternating proprietor licensed premises may be:
(III) Sold to the public in sealed containers for off-premises consumption. Only malt liquors manufactured and packaged on the licensed premises or alternating proprietor licensed premises by the licensee shall be sold in sealed containers.
And the brewery license (a manufacturer’s license) states:
(1) A manufacturer’s license shall be issued by the state licensing authority to persons distilling, rectifying, or brewing within this state for the following purposes only:
(a) To produce, manufacture, or rectify malt, vinous, or spirituous liquors;
(b) To sell malt or vinous liquors of their own manufacture within this state. Brewers or winers licensed under this section may solicit business directly from licensed retail persons or consumers by procuring a wholesaler’s license as provided in this article; [...]
To summarize: breweries and brewpubs can sell beer they make on premise for off premise consumption.
Let bars apply for a special growler filling license. Bars that value this distribution method will go after the license, and bars that don’t, won’t. The bars that do value this will also be more willing to train their staff on proper pours, cleanliness of glassware, etc. The staff are those already willing to learn, and probably already knowledgeable to some extent about beer.
The step to allowing growler sales at bars is a small one, but at this point, just a dream. This article is just a rant. But this is something than can happen. I hope this gets you thinking about the potential. Let me know your thoughts, any pros, cons, or laws I missed. And let’s get some legislators involved in the discussion.