Schell’s pushing for permission to sell growlers
NEW ULM — In the State of Minnesota, it is illegal for a brewery producing more than 20,000 barrels of beer per year to sell any beer, including growlers, from their taprooms.
Schell’s Brewery is fighting to change this law and has joined the Alliance of Minnesota Craft Breweries to do it.
Alongside Schell’s, the alliance includes the breweries Surly, Fulton, Indeed, Lift Bridge and Castle Danger. The Alliance members who cannot sell growlers are Schell’s, Surly, Castle Danger and Fulton. Lift Bridge and Indeed have not yet reached the growler cap in Minnesota but joined the Alliance to call for change. .
Schell’s Vice President of Operations Kyle Marti said they want the Minnesota law changed to give them the same opportunities affords smaller craft brewers.
Marti said customers who visit craft breweries often want to take something home as a souvenir of their visit. Typically, growlers are the most popular method of selling craft beer at the breweries. A growler is any single container holding up to 64 ounces. However, because of the law, Schell’s cannot sell beer to go.
Schell’s has recently opened a new taproom at their New Ulm facility and it is confusing for visitors as to why Schell’s is unable to sell a growler when many of the smaller beer producers can sell beer to go.
Marti explained Schell’s produced approximately 100,000 barrels of beer a year and is well over the 20,000 barrel cap set by the state. There is discussion among state lawmakers about raising the cap to 65,000 barrels, but this would still exclude Schell’s.
Part of the opposition to eliminating the cap is the concern that Schell’s and other larger breweries will start selling directly to customers and local retailers will suffer.
Marti gave assurances this was not the goal. He estimated that less than 1% of beer sales would come from their taproom.
“We want 99% of business to go through the retailers,” Marti said. “They have been good to us and we want to keep that the same.”
Schell’s taproom is open to the public every day, but it closes early in the evening to prevent it from hurting local bars. Marti said they want their taproom to bring people to New Ulm but then they want those people to visit other places in the community. He does not believe the ability to sell growlers directly to customers would hurt local tourism.
Some legislators are concerned that without a cap restricting which breweries can sell growlers, larger national breweries could move into the state and put the smaller breweries out of business.
Marti believed this would not happen because current laws prohibit a brewery that produces more than 250,000 barrels in a year from operating a taproom.
Marti said there is bipartisan support in the state capitol to change the law, but he is unsure if there is enough traction to change it. The Minnesota Legislature is currently in special session.
Marti said anyone supporting a change to the growler law should contact their local legislature and spread the hashtag #FreeThe Growlers.