It has been legal for almost a year now for brew pubs in Maine to sell growlers of their own beer directly from a pub.

As far as my research can tell, only the Liberal Cup in Hallowell and Run of the Mill in Saco, both owned by Geoff Houghton, have taken advantage of the new law.

Growlers are half-gallon, refillable glass jugs generally used by small brewers who don’t want to spend the money to build a bottling plant. And the Houghton pubs are not the only places in Maine you can buy growlers.

“The new law hasn’t affected us,” David Carlson of Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. in Belfast said. “We set our operation up the old-fashioned way. In Maine with a brewer’s license, you are allowed to sell growlers, as long as it is not from the brewing site but at a brewery store with a separate entrance.”

Carlson opened his brewery three years ago, 70 feet away from the Three Tides restaurant he opened seven years ago.

“When they transfer the beer to the serving tank at the restaurant, it is only an 80-foot run,” Carlson said. “The locavores really like having a beer from 70 feet away.”

Those favoring growlers tend to be environmentalists, since they are reusable, and thrifty Mainers, since they eliminate some of the cost.

“Glass is expensive,” Carlson said, “and when you are using bottles, you have to store them. And when a bottle goes out in a six-pack or case, consumers do not think of the 30 cents per 12-ounce bottle that has to be built into the cost of the beer.”

Carlson charges a $2.50 deposit on the growler and a 50-cent deposit on the cap. He said some people keep the growlers as a souvenir, but most bring them back and get the money back when they get a refill. He charges between $6 and $10 for the contents.

The cap is unusual in the growler business and something of an engineering marvel.

“Our caps are plastic, with a diaphragm, and are reusable,” Carlson said. “We’ve had reports of people buying them and taking them out of state, opening them three months later, and they still were good.”

He said the beer will stay good for up to a week after the growler is first opened.

Carlson credited Houghton with the passage of the growler law. He said he knows that Oak Pond Brewery in Skowhegan was selling growlers under the old law, but he thought that Houghton was the only one selling under the new law.

Federal Jack’s in Saco sells growlers under the old, separate store law, and Bray’s Brew Pub in Naples is not yet selling growlers under the new law but is working on it.

Houghton said his part in the growler law had more to do with owning a brew pub in Hallowell frequented by legislators, with whom he engaged in discussions on how to change the world.

“The law is working out really well,” he said.

It took him until June to get his growlers, and he bought special ones for which he charges a $25 deposit. He uses a metal cap with a foam ring, and his beer will last a week before being opened and a couple of days after that. He charges $9.50 for the contents.

“It’s really nice having draft beer at home,” Houghton said. “Growlers are definitely the freshest way to have beer in your house.”

 

I HAVEN’T DONE one of these columns yet without a tasting, so I went to Novare Res near the office, where they had Marshall Wharf Ace Hole on tap.

It’s described as an American pale ale hopped with Sorachi Ace and Citra hops, coming in at 5.9 percent alcohol. It was a dark golden with a nice head and a definite hop aroma, spicy with a strong hops finish.

I liked it a lot, and want to get to Belfast to try more. Heck, I want to get to Saco or Hallowell to try some of Houghton’s beers, too.

 

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at

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