A bill now in Dover would widen the market for craft beer in Delaware.
Flanked by liquor store and Delaware craft brewery owners at Peco’s Liquor Store in Wilmington, Rep. Debra Heffernan announced a proposal to allow Delaware liquor stores to fill and sell growlers of draught beer on site.
A growler is a glass or ceramic jug filled with draught beer, typically sold in a half gallon size. Currently, craft breweries can only sell growlers at their breweries or brewpub.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey already allow liquor stores to sell growlers. In Maryland, the practice varies by county.
Breweries often produce draught beer varieties that are only available at their brewery or brewpub, which limits craft beer drinkers’ ability to purchase certain varieties.
Heffernan said that Delaware’s
craft breweries would be able to expand their market and reach more customers, while liquor stores would be able to compete with stores in neighboring states.
“Right now, you can drive over the Pennsylvania state line and fill up a growler of Dogfish Head at Whole Foods in Glen Mills, but in Delaware you have to drive to Milton or Rehoboth Beach to get a growler of the same beer,” said Heffernan, D-Brandywine Hundred South.
“By allowing Delaware liquor stores to sell growlers, we will be helping two industries increase sales and expand their customer base while giving craft beer drinkers easier access to local, quality products. It truly is an economic development win-win for everyone involved,” she said.
The number of craft breweries has grown from 1,749 in 2010 to 2,126 last year.
The craft brewing industry grew 13 percent by volume and 15 percent by dollars in 2011, while overall beer sales in 2011 were down 1.3 percent. The Delaware Brewers Guild estimates that state craft brewers produced about 250,000 barrels of beer last year.
“There is a bigger demand for fresh craft beer. It’s a niche market that really has accelerated in the last 10 years,” said Peco’s Liquor Store owner Ed Mulvihill. “We’ve been getting requests regularly for growlers, and when those customers find out we can’t sell them, they just go across the state line. Selling growlers allows us to build on that niche market and keep customers here in Delaware while local brewers get more exposure.”
Mulvihill noted that craft breweries could sell varieties that are only available as a draught in growlers, which saves money on bottling and labeling, gives more exposure to local breweries’ brands and even cuts down on waste since customers reuse the growlers.
Greenville Brewery Twin Lakes Brewing has been crafting ales, stouts and lager beers since 2006. While the company sells growlers at its Kennett Pike Brewery, co-founder and CEO Samuel Hobbs said Heffernan’s bill would open new doors.
“We support it 100 percent. We’re hoping that this will translate into more brand awareness for all craft breweries in Delaware,” Hobbs said. “Being able to sell growlers at various locations throughout the state will lead to an increased volume of sales over time, which will help produce more jobs up and down the dtate at breweries, with breweries, distributors and liquor stores.”
Under House Bill 31, liquor stores could purchase a growler filler permit for $150 every two years, allowing them to fill, cap and sell growlers to go.
According to the Brewers Association, craft brewers and brewpubs provide more than 100,000 jobs in the U.S. Delaware ranks 10th in the nation in the the number of breweries when compared to the total population. The state has nine breweries operating throughout all three counties.
“Delaware has gained international recognition as one the U.S.’s premier craft brewing states,” said Brett McCrea, co-founder of 16 Mile Brewing in Georgetown, which opened in 2009. “This legislation continues to help craft breweries expand and grow their business and enhance the reach of all of those breweries to surrounding states. The bill also comprehensively impacts all levels of Delaware’s thriving beer industry.”
HB 31 has been assigned to the House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance & Commerce Committee.