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Growler Fill Update

Thank you everyone who contacted us about the possibility of growler fills in locations other than breweries and brewpubs. Discussions by email and on our Facebook pages are always welcome and in this case may even make a difference in the real world! Now that a Policy Analyst at the Liquor Control & Licencing Branch has contacted us to say that they did want our input we can use these comments to form the basis of our suggestions and official line. The deadline for our suggestions was September 26th so we’ve sent these comments to the LCLB as the basis of our view. I’ve included as many here as are relevant, both pro and con but I have kept the comments anonymous. If you would like your comments removed please email me directly pres@camravancouver.ca and I will do my best.

  • In a world where the general public is aware of growlers, and maybe even own one, think of how much the craft beer audience could grow. I don’t think the audience that currently visits breweries to fill up are doing it because the liquor store is inconvenient. They do it because they love beer. Let’s let more people into the growler club.
  • It works really well in Washington. Although I say no to BC Liquor and yes to private liquor stores that have a craft first mentality.
  • While I agree in principle that it should be a no brainer, of course, we still live in a province where the powers that be refuse to sell cold beer and wine in Liquor Stores. Besides, after seeing the government warp the concept of happy hours and liquor in grocery stores, I’m wary about any other changes that they would be willing to implement.
    If growlers can be filled at gas stations in Seattle, makes sense that BC Liquor stores could do growler fills.
  • I’m cool with it but I don’t think liquor stores realize the level of resources they would require to handle the interest. They will have to not only make a significant upgrade to their store, but how to queue people and service them in a timely fashion. At a Brewery the customer has the option to enjoy the tasting room while waiting 10 to 20 minutes for their growler to be filled. In a liquor store nobody is going to want to wait that kind of time if their growler station is slammed with business… but I think it would be cool because they can rotate various breweries from local to import which would have quite the unique qualities for customers
  • I think it’s silly to assume that it’s going to take away business. The concept of growler fills at liquor stores seems like a good one because many people who can justify going to the brewery itself are usually extremely local. I live in Surrey, and if you want a growler fill here that isn’t red racer you’re looking at going to delta, or new west. I don’t even own a growler because it’s so impractical to fill.
  • It’s doubtful that the brewpubs will like this as it will take business away from them by loosing additional sales if customers decide to stay at eat.
  • It also allows brewpubs, specifically ones outside Vancouver, to get their beer into parts of the city that they normally wouldn’t be able to in the lower mainland.
  • There is a lot of pubs that carry amazing products from BC and the states. A customer can walk into a establishment and fill there growler and have a pint, while waiting for there fill. So if it can happen at private stores it should be a load at pubs with off sales licences as well. Just imagine being able to fill up with fat tug, Howe sound, townsite products and different beers from around the province that we can’t get too.
  • It sounds very convenient, but its not quite the same as when you walk into a brewery to get a growler filled up from its source.
  • For it! Great exposure, great for the consumer (more choice), environmentally beneficial…and with the larger education/exposure of the deliciousness of craft beer i would suspect it will increase the desire to visit, taste and buy at smaller breweries/tours/pubs etc. For example – though I can buy wine from the Okanagan at the BC liquor store that doesn’t mean I don’t want to tour, taste and buy at the Naramata vineyards, in fact it increases my curiosity.
  • In private stores perhaps… As for the government, stay the hell out of competing with business. For LDB they would definitely screw this up likely with more rules, fees and regulations.
  • Against. Yes, it works well in the States and NZ, but get out and visit your local brewery. Make an effort. Be rewarded with fresh beer served by people who care.
  • Anyone ever been to Portland..? They have growler fills available everywhere, even in some gas stations!And last time I checked, their craft beer scene was doing just about ok…
  • For. Why on earth not?
  • Why not just a growler filling vending machine?
  • You can bottle wine for yourself at liquor stores on PEI.
  • Of course support.
  • I dont care that it would be more convenient. Those with the clout to get their beers in the liquor store will outshine the up and comers.
  • AGAINST
  • CAMRA’s mandate is for the consumer, ya? Does this benefit the consumer? By increasing the availability of fresh BC brewed beer through expansion of the growler distribution system, I’d say yes.
  • The marketing angle, from a brewery point of view, is for the brewers and their marketing people to decide.
  • Against !!!
  • It’s another great idea just waiting for the govt to screw it up…
  • I’m down with the idea of going to a brewery. More personal & less mainstream.
  • While I do loath anything to do with The LDB, this would expose a lot of people to craft beer. I worry a little bit about them not exposing the little guys enough, but I don’t have anything to base that on. Except maybe all the things that they have messed up in the passed.
  • I’ll take corkage on ales over liquor store changed any day
  • Works well in Alberta.
  • I like it.
  • In terms of the environment, I think that would be great. In terms of quality control of my favourite small batch brews, not so much.
  • Very selectively pro (i.e. Signature Stores only) but I would like this to remain a reason to visit the breweries themselves. There are safety and cleanliness issues and it would also lead to reduced choice as demand would tend to outstrip supply, at least at the start and for some time probably.
  • That would be awesome.
  • At a time when we’re fighting government over-regulation we should welcome any freedoms we can get. Whose beer is going in those growlers? Craft brewer’s. More sales is good, no?
  • It would allow the consumer(us) to get growler fills of stuff we couldn’t normally, even beers from the US. Growler of something like Fresh Squeezed without having to cross the border? Yes please.
  • For 1000%

As you can see there’s slightly more Yes than No, although not many of those against gave reasons. Let’s look at some of the longer emails I received:

Like you, I would like to be able to fill my growler anywhere. They are a great way to reduce our carbon footprint and waste from traditional packaging, which the government should be encouraging in every way possible.
Breweries arguing against this are deeply short-sighted. They should be embracing new opportunities for greater sales outside BC Liquor Stores, given the challenges of just getting a listing for their beer.
It is also unlikely that many licensees are going to be able to offer as many beers for growler fills as they can offer individual bottles. Therefore, to be able to also go to a pub or bar for a growler fill would offer greater choice. How different is this from establishments that already have offsales? Same mechanism, different medium.
If our economic system is supposed to be market-driven, let us–the market–speak!
This is the one thing I’ve wanted most of all besides allowing minors into pubs at certain hours (as I love beer and have a child). Ever since first stepping into Elizabeth Station 2 years ago I dreamed of the possibilities, if handled properly like it is across the border this can only be a really REALLY good thing.
Great beer is made outside BC and I’d love it if I could put some in my growler without leaving BC. This is done in many other places (all the states south of BC for example) and if anything it helps rather than hinders craft breweries. It also doesn’t stop folks from visiting the brewery. Perhaps it’s more practical when/if to go beer can be sold by other establishments than liquor stores, as elsewhere as well. The first thing I’d like to see is the ability to fill my growler at a bar or restaurant that isn’t also a brewery.
As you may have seen here:  a 34 tap growler fill station at an Edmonton Liquor Depot has just been unveiled.
It’s all very interesting! We’ve taken all of these comments under advisement and our official position submitted to the LCLB is:
CAMRA BC, Canada’s largest consumer advocacy organisation in the field of craft beer have consulted with our membership and have agreed to support the extension of growler fills to include all Liquor Stores, Rural Agency Stores, Liquor Primary and all liquor licensed establishments. It is also our view that Growler fills be expanded to include wine, cider, coolers and spirits. There is no reason for any group to have an advantage over any other when this historic opportunity to bring in equality to all forms of liquor and establishment. As consumers we feel that the choice should be ours and that by permitting growler filling across the board the environmental cost of disposable bottles and packaging would be reduced.
Let’s hope that the government doesn’t half-ass it again and listens to the will of the people (not just corporate interests and scaremongers) to take an full step forward.
Cheers
Adam Chatburn,
President, CAMRA BC – Vancouver Branch

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One comment on “Growler Fill Update

  1. Hello;

    I run a large pub in Vancouver, with an offsales licence and please see below the letter we submitted in November in support of growler fills in our environment;

    RE: Suggestion for amendment to LCLB Policy

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I am writing this letter in order to suggest an amendment to the current LCLB Policy surrounding the sale of Growlers; specifically by suggesting that at the discretion of the General Manager a non-manufacturer, who holds an Liquor Primary license in combination with an Off Premises Sales Endorsement should be able to fill and sell Growlers for take home consumption.

    I have seven very strong reasons for support this suggestion, which are detailed below;

    1. It allows customers to sample beers that they have no access to elsewhere, in their homes. For example we have many draught beers which are not available in a bottled form, many from breweries outside of Vancouver. That means that if the customer wants to try this beer at home, they need to travel to the far reaches of BC and beyond to gain access to it.

    2. It allows these same smaller breweries the ability to increase their volumes & brand recognition outside of the one area that they currently brew – thereby supporting small/boutique businesses through their most volatile growth period.

    3. This same brand development is happening at no cost to the small business – thereby allowing the smallest breweries a larger market. I understand that eventually manufacturers may be able to open tasting rooms which are separate from their brewing site – for example downtown – but this will only be a financially viable option for those breweries that have already achieved some success and are therefore mid-to- larger sized operations.

    4. It levels the playing field for some of the larger manufacturers, who are at this point missing out on the Growler market. If we could sell any of our beers via Growlers, then people who prefer a macro-brew like Alexander Keiths would have access to this product in a Growler.

    5. It is environmentally friendly. Growlers are re-useable and thereby eliminate the need for all of the packaging associated with the traditional take-home alcohol product.

    6. Financially it is more sustainable for every single person involved. The customer gets more volume for their money than they do out of bottled product. In addition, the margins & thereby profitability on draught product are better for both the brewer and the licensee.

    7. Liquor Primary outlets with a Off-Premises Sales Endorsement already have the knowledge and understanding (as well as surrounding systems and training)of both LCLB policy and VCH policy, making them perfectly positioned to move into this market without additional oversight or regulatory changes.

    I am happy to discuss my points in person at any point, please do not hesitate to get in touch in regards to this matter or any other.

    Sincerely,

    Scarlet Osborne
    Cambie Malones Group

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