New Growler Rule in MA: What it means for consumers and what it means for breweries

Recently Massachusett’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) put a new rule into effect allowing breweries to refill growlers brought in from outside the brewery. See the advisory here.

This advisory does have some provisions in it which may cause confusion for consumers and breweries alike. Here’s what our president has to say about it:

“This new rule opens up a great opportunity for many Massachusetts breweries that rely on growlers as their primary source of selling beer to-go. Ordering and storing pallets of growlers and maintaining the supply when business is good can be both expensive and challenging. We hope this alleviates some of that burden,” says Rob Burns, Mass Brewers Guild President and co-founder of Night Shift. “However, this change may also cause confusion for consumers as the new rule states that the growlers must be blank and devoid of other brewery branding. Ultimately, this won't help those eager to unload their branded growler collection. Also, breweries still have the right to decline filling any type of growler, or growlers at all. It will be up to the breweries to make their individual policies clear on their website and social media channels to avoid disappointed guests in their tap rooms."

What should craft beer fans know? According to the new rule:

  • Any growler can be filled by any brewery so long as it's "blank" which means devoid of another brewery's branding or labels. You cannot bring a branded growler to another brewery to fill. 
  • Any type of growler can now be filled: plastic, ceramic, metal or glass 
  • Any size growler can now be filled 
  • The growler must be empty of all alcoholic beverages (it should be clean too!)
  • Know before you go -- breweries can still decline to fill growlers from outside their brewery, or growlers at all.

What should breweries know? According to the new rule:

  • The growler must be filled from a tap by a Farmer-Brewery or Pub-Brewery licensed by the state.
  • Each brewer is responsible for ensuring their legality in their trade practices at the state and federal level and adhere to federal guidelines. See the FAQ page and seek legal consul or reach out to the ABCC with questions or for clarification.
  • Breweries should post their individual growler filling policies on their website site, social media channels, and in their tap rooms to avoid confusion.