A long time ago on restaurant row in Beverly Hills, there used to be a cheesy diner called Ed Debevic’s. It was the west coast branch of a “sassy” Chicago diner, but it closed many years ago. The menu was filled with cheesy jokes, and I’m not referring to forgettable food items listed therein. Aside from a general idea of its location and its name, the only thing I remember was its slogan: “Good Food, Fresh Service.”
About a year ago, I had a run-in with a local brewery that would not fill another brewery’s growler. At the time, I wasn’t aware that California law is much stricter than that of New York or other states regarding growler fills. Briefly, California law requires specific labelling requirements, including that container not visibly bear the markings of a different brewery. It is, in some measure, a truth-in-labelling requirement.
This year, armed with better information, I bought a nice lightweight, stainless steel growler that bears no markings or references to any brewery.
A brewery can fill any container, provided that the brewery affixes its own approved label that lists their the name and location of the brewery, the name of the beer in the container, the alcohol content (if 5.7% abv or greater), and the net contents of the container.
Besides some abstract sense of principle, there are practical considerations. Beer and bicycling go really well together.
The new wave of “craft” breweries are obsessed with fresh beer1, but when I have brought my new stainless steel growler to some breweries, they have also provided fresh service.
It’s been hit-or-miss whether a California brewery will fill an unmarked growler. Breweries are, of course, free to decline to fill an unsuitable container, but I have been bringing one that conforms to the letter of the law. El Segundo Brewing located just south of LAX and Lucky Luke in Palmdale were good enough to fill it, but Bravery Brewing in Lancaster would not.
My guess is that that many brewery employees simply don’t understand the rules governing growler fills and reflexively reject any container that is not their own. They will quote state law as the reason, but it’s more likely that ignorance and laziness to learn the rules is why they won’t make perfectly legal exemptions to their onerous growler policies.
It’s silly when someone won’t sell a thirsty client some beer when we’re both following the rules. It’s not like I’m going to drink it on-premises or something clearly illegal like that.
For all the talk of the painstaking craft of brewing beer, let’s not forget that beer is business. Fill my blank, generic growler, and I’ll hand you some cash.
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- I really hate the name “craft” referring to corn-free beer, by the way. ↩