Rules For Filling/Labeling Growlers in PA
Last week I saw someone asking about Pennsylvania’s rules regarding filling growlers that are labeled with a brewery’s name. The person was coming from Vermont and essentially wanted to know if he could bring growlers from various Vermont breweries and have them filled here in Pennsylvania. The Brewers Association has a database of various state growler laws, but it basically restates the relevant laws verbatim, and, as you know, Pennsylvania’s alcohol laws are about as clear as wort. Fortunately, PA’s laws with respect to growlers are pretty generous (I’m looking at you Florida.)
In short, retail licensees can generally fill growlers whether they are labeled with a brewery’s name or unlabeled. The only restriction here is that the growler must be less than 192 ounces. Similarly, brewpubs can fill growlers from any other brewery or unmarked growlers. This is because a brewpub is treated essentially the same as a retail dispenser. However, a brewery cannot fill growlers that bear another brewery’s name. By law, a brewery may sell its beer in any container or package of any volume to individuals for off-premises consumption, provided that the container or package is the brewery’s “original” container or package. The Liquor Control Board has determined that a growler with another brewery’s name is not an “original” container. However, the Liquor Control Board is also quick to note that a brewery may fill any unmarked/unlabeled growler. So if you have a standard German swing-top growler, you should be able to have it filled nearly everywhere. That’s not to say that some places haven’t enacted their own rules about what growlers they will fill, though I’m finding that to be less and less of an issue.
See this advisory opinion for the LCB’s discussion of the growler-filling rules: Advisory Opinion 2012-489
UPDATE: The LCB released an Advisory Opinion yesterday that contradicts its prior Advisory Opinion on this topic. LCB apparently now takes the position that breweries can fill other breweries’ growlers. Advisory Opinion 2015-58