ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- Minnesota beer lovers can again buy growlers at some of the state's largest breweries and six packs to-go at other smaller taprooms under a new law effective Monday.
The bipartisan deal approved by the legislature marks the most significant changes in the state's liquor laws since allowing sales on Sundays five years ago.
The bill, dubbed "Free the Growler," increases a production cap from 20,000 barrels to 150,000 barrels so the state's largest breweries -- Summit, Surly, Castle Danger, Schell's and Fulton -- can sell 64 oz. growlers on-site and still operate a taproom.
Under the previous law, just those five breweries hit the 20,000 barrel-limit keeping them from those sales.
There are also more options for to-go sales at distilleries and smaller breweries, including standard size bottles of liquor and four and six packs of beer.
The change reflects what consumers largely prefer but couldn't get, members of the industry say. Breweries were restricted to selling growlers and crowlers.
"This is a day that we've hoped would come for years," said Bob Galligan, director of government and industry relations for the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, which represents 170 breweries and brewpubs.
The new law also allows any distillery to have a cocktail room so long as it produces spirits in the state. Tattersall Distilling notably moved most of its production to Wisconsin last year because it reached a current state production limit that would have required closure of its cocktail room in Minneapolis. It cited Minnesota's "restrictive" liquor laws as forcing them out-of-state.
Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, spent months meeting with stakeholders -- retailers, producers and distributors -- to find a compromise everyone could agree on.
Changes to state law have hit roadblocks in previous years because of disagreements among key alcohol-related industries.
"We finally got to a point where everyone can agree on how we modernize our state's liquor laws and really give a shot in the arm to those craft breweries and craft distilleries that Minnesotans really love," Stephenson told WCCO earlier this month.
But the deal did not go as far as some in the industry hoped for.
"No one got everything they wanted, but everyone is getting something they want," he said.
In a statement, Gov. Tim Walz praised the changes as a win for distillers and brewers hit hard by the pandemic.
"Every Minnesota business -- big or small -- deserves the opportunity to succeed," Walz said. "The pandemic has pushed us to think creatively when it comes to the food and beverage industry, and this bill provides more opportunities for these businesses to thrive."
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