House bill offers growler alternative for craft beer lovers

Feb 18, 2015

Aaron Banks, a Columbia native, spent more than a year investigating crimes by listening to phone calls from prison inmates to their friends, family and children. He said the conversations with children really struck a nerve with him. 

“They would be asking when am I going to see you again? why aren’t you at home? And that kind of stuff. It was just heartbreaking to hear that sort of thing," he said.

Banks said these overheard conversations began to affect his relationship with own children, so he began to spend more time at home and this made his craft beer hobby more difficult.

He would drive all over Missouri to fill up a 32 or 64 ounce beer jug called a growler, which is basically a travel container for craft beer. He said he began to want his craft beer without all of the hassle and figured others might want the same thing.

A Craft Beer Cellar growler
Credit Jack Howard/KBIA

Banks said that on the very day he had this thought a bill was put before the state House of Representatives that would allow the retail sale of growlers.

The original bill was introduced three years ago by State Representative Robert Cornejo, who is a member of a homebrew group that meets once a month to brew beer. He said it was one of the first bills he introduce.

Since the bill was introduced, it has gone through many revisions and a current version has passed the first committee hearing and is waiting to be put on the House calendar for debate.

“If you go back and pull up last year's version, it was only about two paragraphs,” Cornejo said. “This year's version is four sections.”

He said allowing retail growler sales and fill-ups in locations such as convenience and grocery stores will help craft beer lovers and Missouri businesses. He said that growlers are a way for craft breweries to avoid the often prohibitive costs of switching from kegs to bottles and cans.

New revisions to the bill have led to no opposition, even from big beer companies. Some of these companies could even profit as they buy up smaller breweries that would benefit from greater distribution options.

Cornejo said he worked with Anheuser-Busch on creating regulations within the bill. These include the labeling of growlers, adding health warnings, and making sure filling stations pour-to-order for customers like Aaron Banks. Meaning, they don’t pre fill-up growlers with beer.

Pre-filling could lead to beer spoilage and would be an injustice, said Steve Labac of the Craft Beer Cellar in Columbia. Labac considers himself a Beer Evangelist and has even put it on his business card.

Steve Labac has worked with others in support of a bill that would allow for the retail sale of growlers.
Credit Jack Howard/KBIA

"In my mind, you’re doing the beer and the person who brewed it a disservice by pouring it earlier that day and letting it sit out and then providing it to a consumer," said Labac.

He said the Craft Beer Cellar opened hoping that the growler bill would pass, and have worked with Aaron Banks in support of the bill.

Store sales could double or triple if growler sales were made legal based on the number of questions on this topic from customers. Labac said that he and his customers are ready for healthier craft beer consumable at home - away from qualifying Missouri breweries that can already sell growlers.