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New Arizona Law Kicks in August 2, Allows Bars and Businesses in on Growler Sales

Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Updated: Friday, July 20, 2012 13:07


Adrian Lesoing • College Times

A new law passed by Arizona legislature could potentially boost craft beer sales throughout the state and give beer drinkers more access to their favorite brews.

Earlier this year, lawmakers slightly amended Arizona statutes to allow bars and liquor stores to fill and sell growlers to customers. But this small change in the law could mean big things for local bar and business owners.

Under current legislation, only microbreweries and brewpubs are allowed to sell the half-gallon containers of their beer to customers. After  August 2, people will be able to walk into any bar or beer and wine establishment with a valid liquor license and take home a container filled with any beer they’d like.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding,” said Sleepy Dog Brewery co-owner Matt Weber. “It’s kind of a cult following, this growler thing and it’s great for craft beer in terms of sales, too.”

According to a study conducted by Northern Arizona University last year, the state of Arizona craft beer industry saw a 22 percent increase in beer production, and while nationally the volume and gross sales of craft-brewed beers have grown by double digits in the past three years, overall beer sales have declined.

Although some breweries have their beer canned and bottled, according to the NAU study, most craft beer production in Arizona – about 60 percent – is distributed through kegs to bars and restaurants.

Breweries like Sleepy Dog, which are based on wholesale volume, will sell a keg to a local restaurant or bar that in turn sells it a pint glass at a time. If the customer likes the beer and wants to take some of that beer home from a facility, he or she will soon be able to do so in a half-gallon package.

“It increases the bar owner’s sales and it decreases the amount in that keg so it helps me sell more beer,” Weber said. “I think it’s a win-win. Sleepy Dog is definitely going to embrace it.”

Sleepy Dog won’t be the only brewery jumping on board the growler trend. Other breweries such as SunUp in Phoenix and Papago Brewing Co. in Scottsdale said they will participate as well.

This will especially benefit fans of specialty or seasonal brews because the only way for customers to enjoy those beers at home is currently through the sale of a growler. Now, rather than having to make a special trip to a particular brewery, a person will be able to stop by any liquor store or bar that carries the beer they want and buy a growler filled with it.

“I think it will be really good for the consumer,” said John Flanagan, owner of Flanny’s Bar and Grill in Tempe. “It will allow them to enjoy more beers at home that they can’t currently buy in package.”

Flanny’s, along with other bars like Hungry Monk and Trophy’s will sell growlers to their customers.

“We think it’s going to be really good for us,” Flanagan said. “We have 22 beers on tap, and I’d say once the law goes into effect we plan on selling most of them [in growlers].”

So far, responses from the community have been positive, however, there is a bit of concern from some brewery owners that extending this right to bars and liquor stores could potentially taint the quality of their beer.

“That is definitely a legitimate concern,” Flanagan said. “That’s something that kind of falls on establishments like us to be proactive and make sure that the growlers are clean and make sure that the draft lines are clean, so that the beer doesn’t get contaminated.”

Just as important, Flanagan said, is for the customer to be educated enough to know they need to get the beer home and refrigerated as quickly as possible so that it doesn’t go bad.

“We need to make sure that they have the freshest beer possible so they enjoy the flavor and aromas of the beer instead of buying the beer and having a bad experience with it and then thinking that the beer is bad,” he added.

Only time will tell how this amendment will impact the craft beer community and the local economy.

“It’s a new law and it is new territory for the Arizona craft beer industry,” Flanagan said. “It’s just a matter of seeing what the customer reaction is and if the community will embrace it.”

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