Legislation Pits Florida Microbrewers Against Major Beer Interests

Date: April 23, 2014

Bill To Regulate Growlers Could Cripple Craft-Brewing Industry

Florida is home to a large and growing microbrewing industry, with more than 100 operations expected to be open by the end of this year. However, it is one of just three states that bans the sale of popular 64 ounce growler bottles, a staple of the craft brewing industry nationwide. Legislation, SB 1714, is making its way through the state Senate to change that, but big beer interests successfully pushed for a legislative provision that would require brewers who produce more than 2,000 kegs per year to sell their bottled and canned products through the state’s existing system of beer distributors. That would even apply to bottled and canned beer sold at a craft brewer’s own location, even if the product never actually left the location. Given that the vast majority of successful microbrewers produce significantly more than 2,000 kegs per year, it would hamper virtually the entire industry. Florida microbrewers argue that the legislation is another way in which big breweries attempt to stamp out competition, while beer distributors look to retain their revenue stream.

What Happens Next:

The legislation cleared a state Senate committee on a 9-4 vote on Monday, April 21, backed by state Senate President Don Gaetz (R). However, there is no companion bill in the state House, and House Whip Dana Young (R) is a close ally of the craft brewing industry. In addition, the legislation has drawn significant media coverage in the state, much of it favorable to small brewers.

Further Reading:

The Miami Herald reports on the issue, with a focus on legislators’ ties to big beer interests. The Tampa (FL) Tribune, the Jacksonville (FL) Business Journal and the AP all run pieces on the controversy. The Florida Brewers Guild is an organization of Florida craft brewers, and is opposing the legislation.

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