Wisconsin grocers want to refill ‘growlers’

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Wisconsin grocers want to be allowed to fill growlers. | AP file photo

LA CROSSE, Wis. — The Wisconsin Grocers Association is pushing to allow customers to get fresh beer on tap at grocery stores.

Most grocery stores in Wisconsin have a liquor license allowing them to sell pre-packaged beer and liquor. The association wants to amend the law to allow customers to refill half-gallon glass containers, known as growlers, with tap beer as a means of expanding beer drinkers’ options.

“The industry, really around the country, has been moving in this direction,” said Marlin Greenfield, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Festival Foods in Wisconsin.

Greenfield said the proposal would not mean having a bar in the store, WKBT-TV reported. Instead, customers could bring in or buy an empty jug from the grocery store and have it filled there, he said.

Joe Katchever, owner and brewmaster of Pearl Street Brewery in La Crosse, said growlers can help a brewery get its beer out to customers in an environmentally friendly way.

“When you buy a growler, instead of a six-pack, you don’t have six bottles to throw away, caps or labels,” Katchever said.

But the La Crosse Tavern League contends growlers would mean competition for pubs.

“The last venue we really do have is tap beer, so we would like to keep that in house,” La Crosse Tavern League president Mike Brown said. “We are losing enough market shares every year so we are just trying to protect the little bit we do have left.”

More than a dozen states already have amended their laws to allow liquor stores within grocery stores to fill up growlers.

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