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6 Minnesota breweries form alliance, push for change in state growler cap

Several Minnesota breweries are too big to sell growlers. They're again seeking to change that.

Six Minnesota breweries are joining together to call on lawmakers to remove the state's cap on who can sell growlers. 

The breweries – Castle Danger, Fulton, Indeed, Lift Bridge, Schell's and Surly – are part of an initiative called the Alliance of Minnesota Craft Breweries. They're pushing to #FreeTheGrowler by seeking a repeal of state law that prohibits breweries that produce 20,000 or more barrels of beer a year from selling their beer in growlers (64-ounce containers). 

Currently, five Minnesota breweries – Castle Danger, Fulton, Schell's, Surly and Summit – are too large to sell growlers, while some others are growing and could reach that point in the near future. (Summit didn't join the alliance because its taproom sales account for less than 1% of the company's annual revenue, according to the Business Journal.)

Opponents of the law say it prevents breweries from growing because they have to either choose to stay under the 20,000 barrel cap or stop selling growlers, Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, said in a video in support of the #FreeTheGrowler movement.

For Castle Danger, which was forced to stop selling growlers in October 2019, Owner Lon Larson said the brewery saw an immediate 30% decrease in sales from the taproom, according to the Stillwater Gazette

The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild has previously said the loss of growlers can cost a brewery upwards of $300,000.

Meanwhile, proponents of the law are concerned not having the cap could hurt smaller breweries and retailers, while also wanting to preserve the distribution system that's currently in place. 

Some of these breweries have been pushing for a change in this law for a few years, but the issue has become more poignant amid the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns that have prevented taprooms from being open, forcing breweries to dump their product

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Last month, a bill during a special session had bipartisan support to temporarily remove the growler cap. However, it wasn't included in a final bill after it failed to pass in the GOP-controlled Senate.

With the Minnesota Legislature heading back into session on Tuesday, this new alliance of breweries will push for a change in law once again. The last time the state's growler cap was updated was in 2015.

It's unclear if this will be the year that the Minnesota Legislature finally loosens the growler cap. The state of Minnesota does have a long history of moving slowly when updating the state's antiquated liquor laws – remember the years-long battle to allow liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sundays?

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