Maryland Growler Laws: Fail - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Maryland Growler Laws: Fail

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As I wrote a few weeks ago, I was in Denver for the Great American Beer Festival. While I was there I made a few beer equipment purchases. More specifically, growlers.

I bought these for my own personal use and did not get them filled for a few reasons.

1. There was enough beer to drink without needing another half-gallon to consume.
2. There is no way TSA was going to let me take a growler on the flight.
3. There is no way I wanted a full growler in my suitcase anyway.

The first growler I bought there was from Drink Tanks. While it was a little pricy, it was very well made and had the feature of being able to dispense like a half-gallon keg. This would allow me to keep the beer fresh, longer.

The second growler I purchased while on the Oskar Blues Ordeal Bus Tour. They offered a great growler at such a good price, that I couldn’t pass it up.

Both growlers that I purchased are made of 18/8 Stainless Steel and are extremely high quality. In fact, these growlers are far superior to any sold at bars, liquor stores, or most breweries. They are insulated, and made of stainless steel to keep light out. They just have one problem. For the most part no one will fill them. Sure I use them to transport homebrew, and I truly love them for that purpose, but I would really like to be able to use them at a growler fill station or pub to get them filled with commercially brewed beer as well.

Properly Marked and Labeled Growler

Properly Marked and Labeled Growler

At first I was upset with the Maryland State Legislature for crafting a bill that makes me buy a growler for every store. But as I researched this I came to realize it isn’t so much the law that is making me do this, but the store owners. Sure there is language in the legislation that states the growler must:

“BE BRANDED WITH AN IDENTIFYING MARK OF THE LICENSE HOLDER”

But that doesn’t mean that I need to purchase the growler at that location. But that is how many of the licensees are interpreting this bill.

So now I have the floor of my home office cluttered with miscellaneous growlers from a dozen locations. Some of which I might get to once a year, and I guess I need to remember to take the growler, because otherwise I will have to buy yet another.

Of course I can’t blame this entire problem on the retailers. Some of the blame does belong to the state. Why is it not implied that if I own a grower that I am accepting liability for the fact that women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects, and acknowledge that consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and that it may cause health problems? I’ll concede this point, and allow any retailer to place a sticker on my growler with said government warning label. But why the growlers need to be branded with an identifying mark is beyond me. Is this to later place blame on the retailer after someone gets into an accident?

One of the last details of growler sales is that they are required to place cleaning instructions on the growlers as well. Really? I don’t have cleaning instructions on my plates or drinking glasses, but somehow they manage to get clean.

I e-mailed my Maryland State Legislature representatives, Allan Kittleman and Susan Krebs. I don’t exactly have a high opinion of government, especially elected officials, so I really didn’t expect to get a response from either on such an esoteric topic as growlers. But surprisingly, while I was writing this blog, I received a response from Susan Krebs’ office. Apparently a revision to the original growler legislation is in committee, and that it should be introduced sometime this year. While no language was given I was impressed that they are doing something about this.

Quiz Time.

Rogues Gallery of Growlers

In the picture above, which growler(s) can be legally used in the state of Maryland?

Only B, Oliver Breweries, is correct. It has all the correct elements for resale. While F and G were also bought in the state of Maryland they are missing some state mandated elements. F does not have cleaning instructions, and G does not have a Government Warning or cleaning instructions.

If you haven’t seen it yet, my good friend Pam just started a Whiskey blog with the Baltimore Post-Examiner. You can find her blog, Whiskey Pam, here.


About the author

John Thompson

John Thompson is a beer enthusiast who began evangelizing craft beer a few years ago on his blog thehoplocal.com. John has been homebrewing sporadically for almost 20 years, and also is a Cicerone Certified Beer Server. When not enjoying a cold malty beverage you will find John spending time with his spouse and two young children or working his day job in Financial Services Technology. Make sure to find John on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter @TheHopLocal and Untapped. at : http://untappd.com/user/thehoplocal Contact the author.
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  • John Thompson

    **UPDATE**

    I exchanged multiple messages with Del. Krebs’ office today. The confirmed that a new bill is being drafted by the Economic Matters committee. This bill should be more friendly to the beer enthusiast community. They are also looking into the matters at the county level and should have something drafted prior to the next county legislative meeting on December 10th.

  • Darren McLellan

    Sadly, we here in Maine live under the same dumba*&ed laws.

  • Guest

    There are minor differences from county to county, but I didn’t want to get into that level of detail. For example, where I live, Carroll County, we don’t have growler sales, aside from breweries. It appears Each county has a bill passed at the state level using the guidelines from the state. I had a really hard time getting the text from individual county bills.

    Since I was not able to obtain language for the new bills, it is unclear how it will effect existing laws. I would imagine county laws would need to pass a measure to adopt the changed.

  • MoCoBeer1

    Another well done piece, what if anything did you find out about county or city differences in the growler laws? Some have said that the jurisdictions are partially to blame for the confusion. Wil the new laws you mentioned be state wide or will there still be differences county to county. Since liquor licenses are county by county, do the state laws only provide the chance for growlers and/ or their labelling requirements or do they mandate them?

    • John Thompson

      There are minor differences from county to county, but I didn’t want to get into that level of detail. For example, where I live, Carroll County, we don’t have growler sales, aside from breweries. It appears Each county has a bill passed at the state level using the guidelines from the state. I had a really hard time getting the text from individual county bills.

      Since I was not able to obtain language for the new bills, it is unclear how it will effect existing laws. I would imagine county laws would need to pass a measure to adopt the changed. I’m interested to see if what I got from Del. Krebs’ office will come about by the end of 2013.

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