The Growler Fill Line

Our plan was simple.  At each brewery or brewpub we liked, we would get a growler fill, which wouldGrowler Fill Line sustain us until we got to more delicious beer.  Repeat for the duration of the trip.  Some days we knew we wouldn’t like any beer, so we would have reserves in the form of the growlers.  The plan worked perfectly through North Carolina, into Virginia, and even for our first step in Vermont.  After that, it all went wrong.

The Vermont Pub is Vermont’s oldest craft brewery.  Founded by beer legend Greg Noonan in 1989, the Pub is right in the middle of downtown Burlington.  Their lineup featured over 10 beers, most of them amazing.  The Pub earned one of our very few 5/5 scores for beer.  We asked about growler fills and they confirmed they do them.  We were excited to get some of their great beer for the road.  The next morning, we showed up to fill our growlers, and they claimed they only filled their own growlers.  We were shocked and dismayed.  What could possibly be the reason for this?  They just missed out on selling beer!

As we came to discover, New Hampshire and Maine both have laws which prohibit breweries and brewpubs from filling growlers that do not have their name on it.  The Maine law reads, in part, “Malt liquor must be dispensed in bottles provided by and with labels unique to the brewery…”  You would think they could just print a label and stick it on the growler.  Rock Art in Vermont- another fabulous Rock Art Flightbeer find- did just that.  Vermont obviously had no laws about this- since we got two locales to fill our existing growlers in the state (Madison Brewing and Rock Art Brewing)- so we couldn’t figure out why so many of the breweries rejected our existing growlers.  It may be spillover from the other New England states.  I’d hate to think it’s an attempt to get more money out of people.  If so, that attempt backfired badly with us.  Not only did we not buy their growler, but we didn’t buy their beer, which is ostensibly the product they are selling.

The growler fill rules in New England are disappointing.  We visited a few tiny mom-and-pop type operations where we just couldn’t take their beer away because they only did kegs and filled their own growlers.  After that, we were looking forward to getting out of New England, just so we could start getting our growlers filled for the journey home!

18 thoughts on “The Growler Fill Line

    1. AlcoholTourism Post author

      Good question, I’m sorry I didn’t give a definition to start the article! A growler is a capped container for (temporarily) holding a liquid. This is usually beer, but could be wine, mead, or water. The Growler Station in Greenville, SC had a great description of the history of the growler. Usually growlers are 32 or 64 oz, but can come in other sizes, as well. Most of the time you’ll want to drink the contents of the growlers fairly soon after the beer is put in- within a few days. Some growler fill processes allow you to keep the growler unopened for weeks. Once open, it’s best to drink within a day or so, as the carbonation will go down and oxidation will begin to set in.

  1. Katie

    Growler laws definitely vary by state. In Massachusetts, it’s definitely the law that they can only fill their own growlers. In Florida, I believe they can only fill 32 oz growlers, and some states don’t allow them at all. You also have some interesting nuances with open container laws and growlers, so you may want to exclusively transport filled growlers in your trunk.

  2. Vermont Beer (@vtbeer)

    I’ve written about VT growler laws at

    There’s no policy regarding on-premise growler fills (brewers can choose to fill or choose to not fill any container they deem worthy). The only state laws are for off-premise growler fills (like at liquor stores). There’s only a handful of VT brewers who choose to only fill their own growlers. The vast majority see growlers are a way to encourage recycling and reuse and as environmentally-friendly (which are all pro-Vermont ideas).

    1. AlcoholTourism Post author

      Thanks for the link, that’s some great information! We were frankly shocked that some VT brewers didn’t fill other’s growlers for the very reasons you state (reuse!), given that it was apparently legal in the state (in contrast to MA, for example). We were most put out by the Vermont Pub, because the beer was so fabulous, and they idealogically seemed like pro-beer people.

  3. Pingback: Visitors shocked and dismayed at some growler policies | Vermont Beer

  4. Bruce Cahan

    I’ve got my Hill Farmstead growler marking time in my ‘fridge as a chilled water container.
    I do site visits for my new biz, Vermont Brewery Tours + regularly and will be up at Hill’s again soon.
    I’m currently using Facebook as my primary web presence in the early stages at least.
    The FB page, which functions like a website with an “About” section, also contains images and regularly updated links to fluid-related items and things I find interesting.
    Accessible from FB with the name above or from a browser at:

  5. Vermont Beer (@vtbeer)

    I think some VT beer fans posted the reason over on my Facebook page. They say that VPB only sells pre-filled growlers, so they can ensure proper cleaning and filling. That’s why they don’t refill other brewery growlers, because they choose to clean and pre-fill their own containers. That might not have been clear when you spoke to them. I’ve asked the same question at other breweries and only received a “no” answer without any explanation before, too.

    1. AlcoholTourism Post author

      They did explain the prefilled thing, but unfortunately only after we came back the day after I had specifically asked if they fill growlers and they said “yes” with no qualifications. Interestingly, quoted from your site, “Products will be filled to go for immediate sale and no pre-filling.” This seems to imply that VPB is not in line with the stated laws.

      1. Vermont Beer (@vtbeer)

        That quote is from the “off-premise” section of the growler law. It only applies to liquor stores with growler stations. On-premise (at brewery) could probably fill and sell beer from Mason jars if they wanted to, there’s not any real laws which limits what breweries can do with growlers/containers.

  6. Pingback: Favourite New England Alcohol Locales | Alcohol Tourism


    Ah, totally agree that New England’s growler rules stink. We’re on a country-wide brewery tour and New England lost money on the beer we couldn’t buy. Connecticut was the first state to fill our out-of-state growlers. Each state’s alcohol laws are truly fascinating and perplexing.


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