Why Stores Won’t Fill Your Growler in Anne Arundel County (Spoiler: someone forgot to tell the county it’s now legal)

Many local craft beer drinkers have asked if Anne Arundel County beer stores are misinformed or just lying when they say it’s illegal to fill a growler that is bought from another store. Unfortunately the stores aren’t misinformed, but they’re also not lying. The reason they can’t fill your growler is way more stupid than that, but this should all be changing in the near future.

Growlers are awesome. Growlers let you take draft beer home in a large container and once you open it you have an excuse to drink it all in two days because otherwise it goes bad. However, Maryland legislators included some ridiculous regulations when they approved the use of growlers in 2013. Fortunately, Senator Edward Reilly, was looking out for Anne Arundel residents, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the Anne Arundel County Liquor Regulations.

The original version of the growler bill stated that a growler license holder can only fill a growler from that store (among other questionable rules). So if you frequent multiple beer retailers under this law then you will quickly need to build a storage shed out of extra growlers to house your other extra growlers. However, Senator Reilly saw to it that the Anne Arundel portion of the legislation would have no such nonsense.

I spoke to Senator Reilly, who fills his growler at Staples Corner Liquors in Gambrills, and he said that he and his fellow legislators changed the growler bill to state that any growler license holder in Anne Arundel County could fill a growler from any other license holder in the county. Specifically, the law was rewritten to state the following:

(8) A LICENSE HOLDER MAY REFILL ONLY A REFILLABLE CONTAINER THAT WAS BRANDED BY THE A LICENSE HOLDER.

(I didn’t add the “THE“, it’s right there in the bill which you can view here.)

By making the simple change from “THE LICENSE HOLDER” to “A LICENSE HOLDER,” Fishpaw’s should be able to fill growlers from Annebeth’s, Annebeth’s should be able to fill growlers from Bay Ridge, and any other license holder should be able to refill a growler from any other license holder. So why can’t these stores fill your growler? According to Edward Aronson, Deputy Administrator for Anne Arundel County Liquor Board, no one told the Liquor Board that the bill had been changed. The Liquor Board moved forward with regulations and licenses based on the old version of the bill.

But don’t worry, Senator Reilly told me that he and some of his colleagues will be meeting with the Liquor Board soon to workout changes to the regulations so that growler usage is implemented in AA County as intended. I will stay on top of this and keep all two of my readers updated.

So what does this mean for consumers and retailers in the mean time? Many people familiar with the bill assume they can have a growler from any store filled by any other store. They don’t know about the Liquor Board’s regulations and often assume the stores are just being greedy.

I asked a number of craft beer drinkers to comment on this issue and many of them were annoyed by the confusion. Janet Gates, who has encountered this a few times stated, “I’ve had a thought to bring the actual law amendment with me when I go to [Fishpaw’s] with my own growler. That way, they can’t tell you it’s because of the law.” She continued, “They can CHOOSE to only fill their own, but they can’t pass that off as the law.” James Rea, of Upper Marlboro, agreed, “they have the right to be dicks, but not to misrepresent the law.”

Others want to boycott retailers that they feel aren’t following the law as intended. Mark Canfield, another craft beer fan stated, “we also have the right to not patronize their establishment.” Chris Brosch, of Severna Park, claimed he won’t purchase a branded growler, stating “the only time I refill mine is when I go to Flying Dog, where they cover it with stickers.  Just a common sense approach.” Lots of beer retailers say that their growler sales are going strong, but it seems that the confusion over the law is at least causing some friction between consumers and retailers. I for one won’t be filling any growlers until this issue gets straightened out.

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