Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New Red Liquor Store Opens In Clarksville And Sparks My Question About Filling Growlers

The new Red liquor store in Clarksville
Can someone explain the current state of growlers in Howard County?

A new liquor store called Red has opened in Clarksville a few doors down from the Roots organic market.  It's one of the classy stores.  Wood paneling and pretty displays like im Wine in Fulton or Columbia Palace Wine & Spirits.  Not metal shelves and piled cases like some other places.

But I'm far from an expert on wine or liquor.  My knowledge and my tolerance are too low.  Red looked nice.  The folks said they pick wines that are organic or has some other positive-sounding traits.  I don't know what that means, but they said it means the selection differs from many other places.  Last month, Lane Page wrote a short profile of Red in Howard Magazine with the awesome idea of "Yappy Hour" events pairing Red with the Bark pet store next door.

My question is about growlers.  Can I now buy a growler and have it filled at any Maryland liquor store?   (Update:  See the answer to my question below from Trip Klaus.  I should have just emailed him directly before I posted!)

Red sells beer in growlers, including a Jailbreak Brewery beer that I thought about trying.  But I have never bought a growler because my tolerance is low and because I thought growlers could only be filled by the store that sold them.  I certainly can't see myself going back to single store enough to warrant the purchase.

But the Red sales woman said they can fill any growlers as long as they're the right size and have the legal warning on them.  If that's true, I might take the plunge.  It might be fun to explore a bit when I have people coming over.


Trip Klaus said...

The law allows any place with a growler fill license to fill any growler that is properly sized and carries the proper government labeling. The stores/bars aren't required to fill growlers that aren't their own but so far I don't know of any refusing to fill other people's "approved" growlers, unless they claim ignorance of the law which changed October 1.for some reason Wine Bin still has the old law on their web site. If the store or bar has so much invested in their own growlers they may chose to fill only their own until they recoup the investment, but I think it's counter productive. The real issue is cost of fill. Most places in Howard County have not just adopted the 4 to 5x glass price, like Montgomery places, but they still often charge more than a six pack of the same beer. Growlers make financial sense in two places: brewery fills and special release beers that may only be available on draft. There is also the issue of freshness. Many people believe keg beer is fresher. This may or may not be true dependent on the brewery, the distributor and the retailer vigilance in providing fresh kegs. However unlike bottles that are now marked with bottling dates, there is no way for the consumer to be sure of the freshness of a keg.

Not trying to dissuade you from enjoying growler beer, just advising an informed decision.


Daniel Patrick Corcoran said...

I had not heard about the change in the law (and I can't find it online anywhere,) but most places had a simple workaround for the old law: they would only fill their own growlers, but if you brought one in from somewhere else they would just swap it out.

Anonymous said...

I asked the Lynwood Square liquor store if they could fill any growler last month. They said they couldn’t. They had already checked with someone on the liquor board. I did some research about that. The Howard County Liquor Board regulations state the refillable container “be branded with an identifying mark of the license holder” and ”a holder of a refillable container permit may refill only a refillable container that was branded by the permit holder.” It isn’t clear, but that seems to only apply to stores and restaurants/bars.

The Howard County law sounds like it defers to the state law for offsite consumption sales for breweries: “provide beer for off-premises consumption only as allowed by the holder’s Class 5 manufacturer’s license.”

Breweries with a Class 5 license (production brewery) can refill a container that meets the requirements of section 21-107 of article 2B of the Maryland code. That section (2B) says: (e) Authority conferred to holders of permits. -- Notwithstanding any other provision of this article, the holder of a refillable container permit issued under this article may refill a refillable container originating from inside or outside the State that meets standards adopted by the Comptroller under this section for a beer container or a wine container, as appropriate.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention in my post above that the store in Lynwood Square may have asked the liquor board about filling other growlers before October 1st. I am not aware of the change that was made October 1st. During my research I did read about AA county trying to change "the license holder" to "a license holder" for the branding.

Anonymous said...

I stopped at this store on its opening day because I had business at Roots, anyway. I asked about some of my favorite wines, and the owner put his nose up in the air and informed me they didn't fit into the store "vision". Then he turned his back on me and walked away. Fine; I'll happily do my shopping where I always have, and give this place a miss.

Anonymous said...

The merchandise in this store is priced so ridiculously high that, like its predecessor, Boulder, Red will not be around for long.

Anonymous said...

Howard County Liquor Board must not have updated their rules to reflect the law. Senate Bill 546 and House Bill 208 standardized growler requirements. A growler only needs to meet article 2B section 21-107. I think all stores need to do is apply stickers (logo/name, rules, ect..) to growlers that aren't theirs.

Angie said...

First thing we've not had anything but wonderful service and incredibly helpful people each time we've been in Red! They have high quality products and are sourcing small, organic breweries and wineries. For those that it matters to, they even have non GMO whiskey! We were told that they would fill any growler that had the governments warning label on it. We like the growlers especially the smaller size they offer as it gives us a chance to try different craft beers. We are very happy with the selection of wines and beers they offer.