Like much of the old south, Florida has some archaic laws on the books. One of the more amusing laws pertains to beer growlers. I've talked about this here before. In Florida, you can walk into a brewery and leave with a gallon or quart growler. Half gallon growlers, the industry standard, are illegal.
Craft brewers have supported two bills, one (HB 283) that would legalize half gallon growlers and another (HB 387) that would allow beer tastings at outside venues like grocery stores and related establishments. The need for bills like this makes you realize how retrograde Florida laws are when it comes to beer. But never mind.
Big beer is proving only too happy to help out. Thanks to the fact that the state is awash in political contributions from Anheuser-Busch, Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill (HB 1329) that would legalize half gallon growlers. Naturally, the bill contains a number of stipulations that would cripple the craft industry. Were you expecting something else?
House Bill 1329, which is to be debated today, would put new regulations on growlers and restrict craft breweries in other ways. Remember, craft beer is largely made up of small local businesses. Big beer is essentially attempting to preserve its position by pushing through laws that make it harder for small craft brewers to operate.
Some have pointed out that this is an odd position for Republican representatives. Publicly, they clamor for less regulation and talk nonstop about free market principles. Yet here they are supporting legislation that will hurt small, locally-owned business in favor of big business.
Lawmakers evidently don't much worry about what Floridians or anyone else thinks. Want proof? Consider the comments of Don Gaetz, Republican president of the Florida Senate. When asked about growler laws, Gaetz brazenly told the Tampa Bay Tribune he will support whatever his beer distributor friend and major donor asks him to support.
"I'm with the beer distributors in my district," Gaetz said."That's a very important issue because one of my very best friends is an Anheuser-Busch distributor...this time he's talking about growlers."
Gaetz certainly isn't alone. Contributions aren't just driving the views of Republicans. Anheuser-Busch has bought representation on both sides of the political aisle with more than $1 million in donations over the years. It's a fairly sad state of affairs.
House Bill 1329 may or may not come to a vote. Anheuser-Busch is obviously hoping to push it through, to the detriment of Florida craft brewers. Meanwhile, MillerCoors distributors support legalization of half gallon growlers with no additional strings attached. We'll see what happens.