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Feds uncork ban on wine growler sales

By Don Iler

Reversing a previous federal rule banning refillable wine containers known as growlers, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has now decided to allow them.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., made the announcement April 25 at a press conference in Portland. The new rule will exempt wine growler fillers from having to obtain a bottling license — an onerous requirement requiring a lot of extra bookkeeping and labeling. Many in the burgeoning growler industry chafed at licensing, saying it required them to follow the same rules as large industrial bottlers.

The Oregon Legislature passed a bill last year paving the way for introduction of wine growlers, in an attempt to give the wine industry the same opportunity as the beer industry to fill glass containers from a tap for take-home customers. However, the feds took umbrage initially.

Oregon’s law permits restaurants, wineries and other stores to fill reusable glass containers with wine from a pressurized keg. Now federal rules are going to allow it as well.

“This is news that deserves a toast,” Wyden said. “Wine growlers are once again legal in the state of Oregon. I want to thank the TTB for managing to break through the bureaucratic morass and finding a commonsense solution.”

Oregon’s congressional delegation authored a letter to the federal agency April 1, urging it to rescind the rule. The delegation was united in calling it “unnecessary and unneeded.”

The notice from the TTB left open the possibility of future rules governing growler filling. But in that event, the bureau said, it would consult first with consumers, industry officials and state officials.

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