Clark described “just how ridiculous” it is trying to explain to his customers why his take-away brews can be sold in the too small 32-ounce bottles or too-big gallon jugs (which can’t be consumed by anyone but a ferocious drunk before the beer goes flat) but not in the perfect 64-ounce growlers that are legal in 38 other states. (Where they haven’t yet set off a beery apocalypse.)
It might be easier to accept Big Beer’s supposed selfless interest in maintaining the public good if the state’s distributors hadn’t spent years fighting to keep a 1965 law intact that restricted the sale of beer to 8-, 12-, 16- or 32-ounce bottles. The effect was to ban the sale of foreign beers in their metric-sized bottles, along with a number of bottled craft beers from other states, in Florida. Before that law was finally discarded in 2001, Florida offered only 648 labels compared to the 4,300 sold nationwide.
State legislators feign an affection for free-market principles, but not, apparently, when it comes to the sale of alcoholic beverages. The state clung desperately to a ban on mail-order sales by out-of-state wineries until a federal judge tossed the law in 2005. Of course, this had nothing to do with Florida wine distributors and their lobbyists beating back competition. They only wanted to prevent the awful specter of underaged drinkers consuming Opus One by the caseload.
A kind of miracle legislation was passed this past session and signed into law June 25 that allows the state’s craft distilleries to sell their artisan liquors on site.
It passed, improbably, but not before industry lobbyists wangled an amendment that insures these tourist-oriented operations will never pose a threat to the big boys. The new law limits purchases to only two bottles at a time.
Of course, Floridians can still waltz into a liquor store and buy all the Grey Goose or Jack Daniels or Canadian Club or Captain Morgan they wish. But the state lawmakers wanted to make sure that our Florida way of life wasn’t compromised by these damn small-batch distilleries — small, fledgling, locally owned businesses that make only piddling campaign contributions, that can’t afford lobbyists.
Besides, if lawmakers allow Floridians to buy more than two bottles of artisan rum or bourbon or vodka, next thing you know, they’ll be washing down the stuff with craft beer poured from those awful growlers.