DULUTH – The legislative battle over Minnesota's growler cap is brewing again.
Reps. Dan Wolgamott, DFL-St. Cloud, and Shelly Christensen, DFL-Stillwater, introduced a bill Monday to allow breweries producing up to 40,000 barrels of beer each year to sell growlers, the popular 64-oz. jugs that patrons take home filled with their favorite drafts from the taproom.
Under state law, breweries are prohibited from selling growlers when they produce 20,000 barrels annually, a milestone Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors hit in 2018.
"It's clear that the craft brewing industry is just exploding," Wolgamott said. "These businesses shouldn't have to scale back production, or be punished, because of their growth."
Separate bills in the House and Senate were introduced in 2019 to completely remove Minnesota's growler cap. Wolgamott said his legislation focuses more on "updating and modernizing" the state's system.
Minnesota's liquor laws are based on the "three-tier" model, which regulates the relationship between three arms of the industry — producers, distributors and retailers.
The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, the Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association and the Minnesota Beer Wholesalers Association oppose both moves to raise the cap.
"Changing the growler rules would further tip the playing field in favor of a select handful of thriving brewers at the expense of small breweries, distributors and retailers," a spokesperson for the organizations said in a statement.
A handful of other breweries, including Duluth's Bent Paddle and Indeed Brewing Co. in Minneapolis, are creeping up on the 20,000 barrel mark. Lift Bridge Brewing Co. in Stillwater produced just over 19,000 barrels of beer in 2019, and co-founder and CEO Dan Schwarz said it's "extremely likely" the brewery will surpass the existing limit in 2020.
Schwarz is holding onto hope that the Legislature will step in before that happens. Castle Danger launched a "save the growler" campaign asking beer lovers to call their elected officials. When the North Shore brewery bid farewell to growlers in October, it had to eliminate a handful of positions in its taproom.
"It wasn't a pretty picture," Schwarz said. "It's not something we want to see happen here in Stillwater."