Sen. Jack Latvala gears up for another growler battle

Published Dec. 17, 2014

TALLAHASSEE — It was one of the most spirited battles in the Legislature this year, pitting scrappy independent craft brewers against wealthy beer distributors intent on preserving their dwindling customer base.

On Tuesday, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, renewed the fight, filing a 2015 bill that would give microbreweries what they have long craved: half-gallon "growler" containers.

It's the second go-round for Latvala, who filed a previous bill only to see it get killed. Another bill, which placed additional restrictions on craft brewers, died after late-session maneuvering by Latvala and others.

"The prospects are better for next year," Latvala said. "The reason why is I think my colleagues heard a lot from their constituencies who want this."

Latvala's SB 186 would allow local breweries to fill up the 64-ounce containers for customers to take home, which is currently illegal in Florida thanks to resistance from large beer distributors such as Anheuser-Busch. Brewers now can fill up containers that are 32 ounces or 128 ounces, but not those that are 64 ounces, which is a popular size because it's large enough to satisfy and small enough to consume in one day. (It goes flat soon after opening.)

Mitch Rubin, executive director of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, said his group doesn't plan to oppose Latvala's bill this time.

"It's a good bill, but we suggest the label requirement include alcohol by volume," Rubin said, asserting that many growlers don't contain that information.