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Lawmakers pitch beer bill, but not everyone is hoisting a mug in support

A Senate committee Thursday approved a bill that would allow beer drinkers to fill up 64-ounce containers, known as growlers, but a change in the bill caused heartburn.

The bill (SB 406), sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is intended to help the craft brewing industry sell microbrews into the 64-ounce containers, as is allowed in 47 other states.

Florida allows brew pubs to fill 32-ounce containers and gallon buckets, but not the 64-ounce growlers. Growlers are filled straight from the tap and sealed with a twist-cap, to avoid open container laws.

But the bill ran into questions Thursday because Latvala added another proposal brewing in the Senate: to allow beer tastings by licensed beer distributors and retail stores.

The problem was that Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said she was unaware her beer tasting proposal (SB 470) was being poured into the growler bill as it appeared before the Regulated Industries Committee.

Detert is a member of the committee. More importantly, Latvala was seeking to use the original version of Detert’s bill.

The Regulated Industries Committee approved Detert’s bill on Jan. 16, but with the understanding that the measure would be altered to limit small businesses, particularly convenience stores, from hosting public beer samplings.

The state currently allows wine and liquor tastings at premises that are authorized to sell such beverages.

Detert continues to recraft the language of her measure before it moves on to the Community Affairs Committee.

Latvala earned unanimous support from the Regulated Industries Committee, but he apologized to Detert and promised to remove her language from his bill before its next committee stop.

“I’m fully happy with her handling that issue in her own bill, and I will take it out,” Latvala said.