Ohio Beer Counsel
Information and Commentary on the Issues Facing Ohio's Craft Beer Community, Breweries and Distilleries - Brewed by the Craft Beer Lawyers of Bruns, Connell, Vollmar & Armstrong's Brewery & Distillery Practice Group
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Is the Growler in Your Car an "Open Container?"

Unlike the State of Florida which recently passed legislation allowing for 64 oz. growlers after 3 years of debate (and more than $1 million spent on lobbyists!), Ohio has permitted consumers to carry home their favorite craft beer from breweries and tap rooms in growlers, up to a gallon.  Inherently, a reusable glass container filled with beer, regardless of size, is not an "original sealed container" as that term is used in the law.  The question then becomes are growlers "open containers," and if so, are folks at risk by transporting them in the front seat of the car?

As with many questions in the law, the answer is . . . it depends.  For starters, why are we even talking about growlers when Ohio regulations prohibit retail permit holders authorized to sell beer by the glass for on-premises consumption from refilling "any bottle that formerly contained alcoholic beverages?"  Even though laws sometimes create grey areas, Ohio clearly distinguishes a "bottle" from a "glass container" as growler fills are quite prevalent!

Now reassured you're not breaking the law by filling a growler, how do you avoid violating Ohio's open container law, a minor misdemeanor?  Breweries, tap rooms and consumers alike should be familiar with the following requirements.

  1. Glass containers must be cleaned immediately before being filled.
  2. Glass containers must be securely resealed by the permit holder in such a manner that it is visibly apparent if the bottle has been opened or tampered with. 
  3. Glass containers must be stored in your trunk.  If your car has no trunk, behind the last upright seat or in an area not normally occupied by the driver or passengers.  It must be in an area not easily accessible by the driver.

The law speaks of "marking" the containers and many breweries slap a sticker on a growler to identify the purchase.  Despite this language, and as reported by Rick Armon in January 2014, Ohio does not require a sticker on a growler from another establishment, but considers it "best practice."

So go forth breweries, tap rooms and consumers and continue the growler fills.  Be mindful of the nuances in the law and of course, contact OBC with any questions.