Ore. lawmakers poring over growler bill

Would make it legal to fill 64 oz. container with wine, hard cider

POSTED: 6:52 PM PST February 19, 2013    UPDATED: 9:33 PM PST February 19, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

At The Growler Guys Fill Station on Bend's east side, beer is not all that's on tap.

"We never intended to sell ciders or wine," owner Kent Couch said Tuesday "We never even thought about it when we started this program."

But now, hard cider and sangria sit side by side with craft beers. One of their best-sellers, out of all their drinks on tap, is the Angry Orchard hard cider out of Ohio.

"This is a really nice, crisp pouring cider," Couch said.

A call from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission let the Growler Guys know once their kegs of cider and sangria are dry, they can't replace them -- at least, not to fill growlers.

"We told our customers and they're disappointed," Couch said. "We told them, 'hang tight.'"

Right now, it's legal for wineries to sell growlers full of wine, but not shops, grocery stores or restaurants. House Bill 2443 is designed to change that.

"We're certainly rooting for it, and supporting it," Couch said. "We're contacting our legislators to try and move it through."

This bill specifically addresses filling up growlers, but if it passes, customers could bring in other types of containers to fill up off the tap. That aspect is appealing to people looking to go green by reusing a growler instead of purchasing a new bottle every time.

"Its better for the environment, it's cheaper for me -- I mean they've been doing it in Europe since the dawn of time," said Scott Ratcliff, owner of Volcano Vineyards in Bend, who wants the taps to keep flowing.

The Growler Guys serve two types of Ratcliff's sangria, at least for now.

"I think it's great, because I'm not open all the time as a winery, with regular winery hours, and they're open all the time," said Ratcliff.

The law won't close down The Growler Guys, but it does take wine and cider off the tap, leaving drinkers with only one 64-ounce choice: beer.

The sponsors of the bill want it passed quickly. They attached an emergency clause to it, which means if it passes, it goes into effect immediately. Supporters hope it's fast-tracked, so it can be signed by the governor before May, which is Oregon Wine Month.