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Bottleshop growlers – a new market for many WA breweries

Update: Read our more recent post to learn more about the cool stuff our local bottleshops are doing to insure that you can take delicious, fresh, draft beer home with you.

Back in February we told you about a proposed new law allowing bottleshops to fill growlers (read it). Well, Senate Bill 5711 passed and became law. As of July 20th your local bottleshop can fill growlers for you if they so choose.  Some bottleshops we’ve talked with already have plans to sell growlers. Others have yet to decide.

There are two types of bottleshops to consider. Only one is impacted by the new law.

First, some places that you might think of as bottleshops actually hold tavern licenses. The tavern license allows these establishments to sell beer for on-premise consumption, draft or bottles, and then a special endorsement to the license allows them to sell beer to go. As I understand the law, it is because they hold this type of license that places like Seattle Beer Authority, Malt and Vine, and Bottleworks allow  you to enjoy a glass of beer as you browse the shelves. I’m not sure who does and does not sell growlers, but legally they all could.

Other bottleshops hold a different kind of liquor license: a Beer and/or Wine Specialty Shop license. For example, 99 Bottles, the Beer Junction, and Full Throttle Bottles.  The law now allows this kind of bottleshop to sell growlers to go. They still cannot sell beer for on-premise consumption.

In short, we’re talking about two different business models. They’re both good, just different. The law sees one as a place where people go to drink that just happens to sell beer to go. The other is viewed as a shop selling beer and wine.

Perhaps the most significant difference is the ability for parents to bring their kids in the store. Minors are not allowed into shops licensed as taverns. For bottleshops licensed as beer and/or wine specialty shops this was quite an important distinction. Although they wanted to sell growlers to go, they also wanted to continue allowing parents to bring the kids shopping. I’ve also talked to at least one bottleshop owner who specifically said that they purposely did not want to deal with the complexities and potential headaches involved with serving alcohol to consumers. It changes a lot of things, including the type of insurance a shop must carry.

A Win-Win Situation

This new law is good news for Washington’s many breweries that do not package beer in bottles or cans. It seems unlikely that a bottleshop owner would want to sell growlers of a beer that is available in bottles. More likely, the stuff you’ll find on tap at bottleshops is the stuff that never makes it into bottles.

For a brewery that does not bottle its beer the new law creates an opportunity to introduce its product to the bottleshop crowd. What do I mean by bottleshop crowd? There are people amongst us who do most of their craft beer drinking at home. I know it seems strange to those of us with reserved seats at the local pub, but some people drink out of their fridge and only rarely make it out to Seattle’s better beer bars. These people rely on their local beer retailer to introduce them to new and different beers. This law gives the retailers more flexibility and allows them to better serve their customers.

So Who’s Filling Growlers Now?

Now that the law has been changed, it’s up to each particular shop to decide if they want to get involved in the business of filling growlers. It adds certain complexities to the business: maintaining draft systems, ordering and storing kegs, stocking empty growlers, and so on.  If you want your local bottleshop to offer this service, let them know.

We’ve talked to a few bottleshop owners about their plans. Here’s what we know.

The Beer Junction in West Seattle will soon be moving to a new location a few blocks away. They will not install draft equipment at the existing location but will include it when they build-out the new location.

Down in Federal Way, 99 Bottles has big plans. From a recent newsletter: “We’re especially excited as our original dream of 99 Bottles is nearing! That is, a beer store surrounded by a community of wonderful beer lovers, supporting breweries by carrying their complete product families whenever possible, and offering beers to-go in bottles, cans and growlers.

“That new law brings us to that final dream of offering growlers to-go! Right now we’re busy ordering the beer keg storage and dispensing systems, growler jugs, and working out all the details to start this program soon… so stay tuned as we make announcements in the upcoming weeks.”

In Georgetown, Full Throttle Bottles is not in any hurry to start filling growlers. Erika Cowan, the owner of Full Throttle has sound reasons why. “I did a poll on Facebook and everyone said that they’d rather go straight to the local breweries [for growlers],” says Erika. “Given that I have about ten breweries within five miles or so, it makes sense folks responded that way. I never say never, and I really listen to what my customers have to say. If they ask for it, I would certainly consider doing it.”

We hope other bottleshop owners will chime in here and leave comments and that readers will share what they know about which shops will and will not fill growlers now that the law allows.

 

 



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10 comments

  1. Filling growlers has been something we wanted to do at Norm’s Market – Keg & Bottleshop for a long time. Working with the other bottleshops in the area to get legislation passed was awesome. We’re so happy to finally be able to fill the obscure beer orders we’ve been getting for years and also support NW breweries at the same time. Currently we have 12 taps with plans to add another dozen real soon. If you ever need beer in the north end, check us out (10027 Lundeen Pkwy, Lake Stevens, WA). Cheers!
    Also here’s a quick article the local paper did on the new law: http://bit.ly/rqT5Cb … and our opening night: http://bit.ly/qFPIf8

  2. While Barry up at The Beer Authority is a great guy, and I try my best to support him, and his growing family by buying growler’s and 22 ozers, as well as the occasional pint, I welcome this law.

    His prices are near double what you can find to fill a growler in Georgetown, and the more competition the better. I’d also like to have a bottleshop to go to to fill my growler, as I often have my 4 y.o. in tow.

    Interestingly, I attempted to fill a growler at a couple bars in down on Alki this weekend, and they wanted to have nothing to do with it. I found that odd, but perhaps they legally can’t?

  3. Well here in Lake Stevens, Shane McDaniels owner and operator of Norm’s Market in Lake Stevens, helped work with legislation to get this bill pushed through and are already filling growlers. Picked up mine on Friday. I am excitedly looking forward to filling up here since I don’t live near any of the great breweries in the Seattle area. Sure Scuttlebutt, Diamond Knot and Lazy Boy are in my neck of the woods but this will allow me to sample other great beers without having to make the trek down to the city.

  4. This will be excellent. Waiting for 99 Bottles to start filling for me. I am curious to see if there will be afilling fee and how much markup may be at the bottle shops.

  5. Whidbey Beer Works in Oak Harbor, Wa is up and running with growler fill. The following is on tap: Mac and Jack’s Amber, Manny’s Pale Ale and Anacortes Red. We will be adding Walking Man Knuckle Dragger on Thursday. So come and fill a growler and enjoy. Cheers.

  6. I will love, love, love being able to fill growlers close to home however, in response or addition to biliruben’s post – I work in the industry of beer pouring and I am still not quite clear on exactly why some bars can not fill growlers and some can. For lack of a better answer, i have assumed that it was some endorsement on a regular liquor license that the owner must purchase. Anyone?

  7. To the best as I can understand it, you need to be licensed as a tavern with an endorsement for off-premise sales. Now, if you’re serving booze then you aren’t licensed as a tavern. A restaurant with with a liquor license isn’t licensed as a tavern and maybe cannot get an off premise endorsement. I guess? Note to the LCB: Could you possibly make WA liquor laws MORE confusing, please? For cryin’ out loud.

  8. Does anyone know where I can get a Mac & Jack GROWLER for purchase? I need it asap for a gift – so I guess need it mailed to Bellingham, WA (?)

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