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I'm headed up to Boston next weekend for an event, and was planning to take up a few empty (or maybe full!) growlers to fill with interesting and delicious things from some of the local breweries up in the area. However, I've heard that MA has some fairly restrictive laws regarding fills (i.e., that breweries are not able to fill growlers other than those with their own logo/which they themselves distribute). This is baffling and monstrous to me coming from NY, where just about anyplace that's willing to can fill just about any appropriately sized bottle I bring up to the tap with me.

What exactly are the rules regarding growler refills in Massachusetts? Do they differ if I am looking to get a fill at a bar or retail store, rather than direct from a brewery? Are there size restrictions?

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    Please do let us know how it goes—any unexpected restrictions or leniencies—and specifically at which breweries! Having gone to a school near MA (Troy, NY), I have many friends from MA, as well as many friends from NYC migrating to Boston, so I expect to make future trips to Boston. Thanks, and enjoy your visit. – Andrew Cheong Mar 22 '14 at 5:12
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It appears that there may be several laws in play here, but perhaps the interpretation of those laws by the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, the brewers, and the Mass Brewers Guild that determine how growler fills work in practice.

The first law in question is the regulation on labeling. Nothing in there appears to prevent brewers from filling any growler, but the standard interpretation from both the ABCC and the brewers is that they believe it makes it illegal for them to fill any growlers other than their own, and that is the policy by which they seem to all operate.

As for retail establishments, there do seem to be some non-brewery bars that offer growlers, (see Ducali Pizzeria and Bar on this list) but those may be for on-premise use. There was a proposal for a bill to allow on-premise / off-premise licensees to do growler fills but as far as I can tell, it died in committee, primarily due to strong opposition from craft brewers who were worried it would cut into their bottle profits.

Beyond issues of distribution, the joint legislative committee also heard from industry members interested in allowing both on- and off-premise retailers to fill beer containers up to 64 ounces for take-away and off-site consumption. The bill, sponsored by Representative William Pignatelli, has caused some division in the industry between retailers and small brewers. “We think it would be a disaster for our business by cannibalizing our bottle sales, our only real income source,” says one small Massachusetts brewer. “We for one couldn't thrive in a situation where the profit on bottled beer transfers from brewery to store or bar.”

Source: http://www.beveragebusiness.com/archives/article.php?cid=1&eid=88&aid=2031

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This outlines the basic laws for all states. http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/government-affairs/growler-laws

Growlers permitted under manufacturer license: Yes
Growlers permitted under brewpub license: Yes
Growlers permitted under retailer license: Yes
Specific "growler" language in statute: No

There is a link to the actual laws in Massachusetts on the this page too

And since some people can't follow links, I'll do the research for them so they have the answers to their questions. First when looking for answers to legal questions ask a lawyer not random people on the Internet.

"(i.e., that breweries are not able to fill growlers other than those with their own logo/which they themselves distribute)"

Reading the laws and talking to some people the answer is yes you have to purchase the growler from the brewery.

  • This doesn't address any of the specific concerns raised by my question. – LessPop_MoreFizz Mar 17 '14 at 23:34
  • Read the links... Since you didn't I did and modified my answer. – Wayne In Yak Mar 18 '14 at 0:50
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    @WayneInYak - LessPop_MoreFizz's response could have been nicer, but to be fair, your answer in its original form was a link-only answer, with some pasted material; we prefer posts that answer questions without visitors having to leave the site. Also, the mentioned link leads to an unreasonably large amount of material; a link to a page with 78 sections of law (and apparently no way to load them on a single page to search) isn't very helpful. If you've found specific citations, please let us know exactly where. I for one can't find where it says one must purchase the growler from the brewery. – Andrew Cheong Mar 18 '14 at 11:00
  • You are talking law that is vague and unclear, the only real answer you can get is from a lawyer operating in that state. – Wayne In Yak Mar 18 '14 at 13:17

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