Our plan was simple. At each brewery or brewpub we liked, we would get a growler fill, which would 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 beer 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!