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Apr 30

From idea to law, Washington beer enthusiasts rejoice!

Though it feels like a long time to progress this far, the process has actually been pretty swift. The topic – more beer variety in the form of growler fills at Washington state breweries and bottle shops.

For our bottle shop, this is something we’ve been asking for since 2006, but a bill wasn’t introduced until early 2011, after a Senator got on board with the cause.

Starting out as bills SB 5711 and SB 5709, the two were placed in the “X” file at the senate, unable to progress. But Senator Hobbs stepped up to help Washington beer and worked with the liquor control board to amend HB 1465, breathing life back into progress for beer licensees.

I’m just a bill, yes I’m only a bill, and I’m sitting here on capitol hill… it’s a long, long wait while I’m sitting in committee [four months for HB 1465], but I know I’ll be a law someday at least I hope and pray that I will… I hope they vote on me favorably [the State House voted favorably on February 26, amendments were added and the State Senate voted favorably on April 5, followed by the State House voting favorably on the amendments April 13] …and if they vote for me on capitol hill, well then I’m off to the white house [delivered to Gov. Gregoire on April 19] where I wait in a line, with a lot of other bills for the president to sign [Governor, in the case of state bills]. And if he signs me then I’ll be a law… [signed into law on April 29]

Friday, April 29, 2011 Governor Gregoire signed HB 1465 into law, which updates conditions and restrictions for liquor licenses.

What the new law means for Washington breweries

Washington breweries can become authorized to sell beer of another domestic brewery for on-premise and off-premise consumption from its premises under certain conditions. Say you’re going to Schooner EXACT Brewing for a taste and growler fill; previously you were only able to get Schooner EXACT beer. Under the new law, that brewery can now include other breweries on their taps, such as Georgetown Manny’s Pale Ale, Chuckanut Kolsch, etc. This allows promotion of other breweries’ beers, creating more camaraderie in the brewing community and offering beer lovers more variety on tap.

What the new law means for Washington bottle shops

Washington “Beer and/or Wine Specialty Stores” can be approved to well beer in sanitary growler containers, filling at the tap at the time of sale, while continuing to offer in-store tastings under the WSLCB guidelines. This allows family-friendly Beer Stores, such as 99 Bottles, Gravity Beer Market, The Beer Junction, and Full Throttle Bottles to retain their focus of providing good beer to-go, for safe consumption at home.

No longer are beer stores required to change their license type to “Tavern Beer and/or Wine” or “Beer and/or Wine Restaurant” and obtain an “Off-Premise Sales Endorsement” to fill and sell growlers to-go. Previous law required bottle shops to become 21-and-over-establishments and offer some type of food with their tap and bottle wine/beer. This also means increased liability from the possibility of over-serving high-gravity beers to those accustom to drinking lower alcohol beers. While bottle shops such as Bottleworks, Malt & Vine, By The Bottle, and The Beer Shoppe transformed into Beer Bars to offer in-store drinking in conjunction with growler fills, others wanted to retain their focus as bottle shops while offering growlers.

And now, with liquor control endorsement, specialty beer stores will finally be able to offer growler fills.

Growlers…of what?!

Washington beer, my beer-loving friend, and other US craft beer. (And import beer, if they desire, at bottle shops.) To-date there are 145 breweries in Washington state. Less than 30 of those breweries make their beer available in bottles. That’s over 100 breweries that beer lovers are missing out on unless they’re drinking out.

1 comment

  1. Tiffany

    Oh, and timeline— It typically takes 90 days to fully enact new laws, so keep an eye on your favorite Washington bottle shops and breweries to begin releasing information on their tap lists and growler programs in July/August.

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