Starting Oct. 1, the fifth-largest brewery in the Gopher State won’t be able to sell Growlers, the 64 ounce, reusable beer containers, or Crowlers, a 750 ML container, because the state restricts breweries’ annual beer production.
A state liquor law dictates that a brewery that sells 20,000 barrels of beer in a year can no longer sell the larger containers from their taproom.
Attempts to loosen liquor law restrictions in Minnesota failed during the past legislative session.
Proponents of the restriction say it supports a distribution system that includes producers, distributors and retailers. Critics say the system is outdated and from the post-prohibition era.
Many amendments proposed this past session would have loosened the state’s alcohol regulation system. None survived.
Rejected amendments included:
- Lifting the annual barrel cap to 40,000 from 20,000
- Allowing establishments to sell craft beer and craft cocktails collaboratively
- Growler sales in liquor stores
- Letting the same owner have more than one liquor store in any city
- Allowing craft breweries to have guest taps of other brewers’ beers
- Beer and wine sales in grocery and convenience stores
- Ending Minnesota’s status as the last state with 3.2 percent beer
Lauren Bennett-McGinty, executive director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, said that breweries lose on average $300,000 in revenue after crossing the state cap.
McGinty said she reached that number from research of their guild.
She said critics of loosening regulation believe it would damage the three-tier system.
“However, we believe that breweries who are allowed to sell breweries out of their taproom, it actually promotes selling that same beer in a retail establishment," McGinty said. “Selling a Growler, for example, provides people with an opportunity to try something they may not be able to get in a bar or local restaurant. But it does encourage them to buy more product from that brewery or at their local liquor stores or bars and restaurants.”
Castle Danger, Fulton, Third Street, Surly, Summit and Schell’s breweries are already over the 20,000 barrel cap this year.
Maddy Stewart, marketing and event manager at Castle Danger, said the brewery produced 23,500 barrels of beer in 2018.
Stewart told The Center Square that exceeding the cap will be a “hit to us financially and culturally” because Growlers represent 30 percent of taproom revenue.
That loss of revenue will mean a few part-time positions and one full-time position will be eliminated, she said.
Minnesota laws double-cap brewery alcohol production by limiting total annual production sold in the taproom and exported to other states to 20,000 barrels, as well as a law capping the number of barrels sold out.
Stewart said they blew past the state cap.
“We’ve had a lot of growth in recent years that we didn’t foresee, and it’s wonderful,” Stewart said. “People are really digging our beer. We want to significantly raise or eliminate that 20,000 annual production cap so we can sell again, but we would still be capped at 750 barrels of total off-sale from our taproom.”
Stewart said the brewery is optimistic they’ll be able to sell Growlers again, but that people must spread the word, lobby, and talk to local government to have laws changed.
“Beer is bipartisan,” Stewart said. “It really crosses party lines, so we’re hoping that resonates and rings true and will come out of the 2020 session.”
The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild says it will return in 2020 to lobby again for less restrictive regulations, with a focus on increasing or eliminating the growler cap.