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Local breweries ready with half-gallon growlers as they become legal Wednesday in FL

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Breweries around town have their new glass jugs ready to go — hundreds of shiny half-gallon jugs. Distilleries, too, are expecting increased sales thanks to a new law that, quite simply, allows customers to buy more.

Two new laws take effect next week that ease some of the restrictions that Florida placed on how producers of beer and spirits sell directly to customers.

The one that’s gotten the most attention is the approval of 64-ounce growlers, the jugs that breweries and some retailers fill with draft beer for customers to take home.

Florida has been one of only three states that didn’t allow half-gallon growlers, instead limiting them to quarts and gallons.

That’s changing.

After several years of contentious failure in the Legislature, small breweries finally won this year.

On Wednesday, those half-gallons will become legal. And the breweries have pallets of new glass growlers ready to go.

“A 32-ounce growler is a good weeknight,” said Warren Fryefield, co-owner of Beer:30, a retail store on King Street that started filling growlers last October. “But 64 ounces is a good Friday or Saturday night.”

“Unless you’re going to a party, a gallon is not very convenient,” said Riley Leuthold, tap room manager at Intuition Ale Works on King Street.

While growlers can last two weeks sealed, breweries recommend drinking them the same day they’re opened.

“A gallon goes flat a lot faster,” Leuthold said. “If you drink half of it, there’s a half gallon of air in there.”

He said Intuition has several hundred new growlers and will be selling them for $5. Filling them with beer costs another $10-$20.

But Wednesday to Saturday, turn in an empty gallon growler and Intuition will give you a half-gallon filled with one of its core beers free.

At Bold City, Brian Miller said empty half-gallons will be $7.50, with another $7.50-$10 for the beer.

He said they’ll still fill the gallons.

“People who have spent a lot of money on them still want to use them,” he said. “Maybe over time they’ll fade away.”

But the beer sellers said another thing that will be gone is the embarrassment of telling people from out of state that they can’t fill the half-gallons they bring in.

“We’ve turned away plenty of people and we’ve had to explain to them that Florida had a really stupid law,” Fryefield said. “But now it’s gone.”

Less notice has been paid to a change in the number of bottles of liquor that distilleries can sell directly to a customer.

The Legislature passed a law in 2013 that allowed the sales, but each customer was limited to two bottles a year from each distillery.

On Wednesday, that changes to two bottles of each brand.

St. Augustine Distillery, which opened last year, has two brands, for example: Florida Cane Vodka and New World Gin. That means a visitor will be able to leave with two bottles of each.

Distillery co-owner Philip McDaniel said it’s planning to release its first rum in September. And then there’s the whiskey that’s aging in more than 500 oak barrels. That should start coming out next year.

Each new brand means two more bottles a customer can buy. And the distillery is getting lots of visitors, about 10,000 a month.

“That’s going to help us significantly,” McDaniel said. “We have a lot of guests who say they’d like to buy a case, or six or eight bottles.

“The worst thing is telling a guest ‘no.’ ”

But he’s expecting the new law will increase sales at the distillery by 10-15 percent.

That’s significant because the distillery makes as much on one bottle sold there as it does on three or four bottles sold through its distributor.

There has been one complication, he said.

“We had to bring someone in to rewrite all our software.”

A southeast Florida laid back beach bum and volunteer bikini assessor who lives on island time. 


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