A bill headed to the governor’s desk would allow retailers that sell beer, like Caseys or Kum ‘N Go, to set up “craft beer” taps so customers could get “take-out” beer in a big glass bottle that holds up to 72 ounces of beer. Representative Mike Sexton of Rockwell City said he knew nothing about these receptacles which are called “growlers” and “howlers” a couple of weeks ago, but got some help from fellow legislators.
“The bipartisan research committee that really helped me with the heavy lifting on the research on this bill — one glass at a time,” Sexton said today, getting laughter from his fellow House members.
A growler is typically a glass bottle, with a handle, and the bottle holds at least 64 ounces of beer. A howler is about half that size.
“Those of you that do drink beer realize that a glass of beer is about 16 ounces,” Sexton said. “So a big growler would be four beers — or if you have a friend over it would be two beers a piece — or the howler, which would be two beers.”
The bill requires the bottles to be capped at the store and then a plastic film will be wrapped around the lid, so law enforcement can tell it’s not an open container in a vehicle. Representative Mary Mascher of Iowa City said installing a system to dispense craft beer will cost about $15,000 per store.
“So this will not be in every convenience store throughout the state and that’s probably causing some of you chagrin,” Mascher said. “But the intent is to make it available for people who are interested in buying some of the specialty beers.”
Mascher, who is a retired teacher, shared a bit of her homework on howlers and growlers.
“It goes back to ancient times when people carried their beer home in pails and when they put the lid on those pails, (carbon dioxide) bubbles would be emitted it would start to make a sound and that’s where the growler sound came from,” Mascher said during today’s debate of the bill. “If it was a half a pail, it was a howler and it made a whistling sound.”
Representative Vicki Lensing of Iowa City said the number of craft beer businesses in Iowa is skyrocketing.
“And when we’re talking about craft beer we’re talking about taste and quality, not quantity,” Lensing said, “which is why being able to buy a howler or a growler makes sense — if you like good beer.”
Sexton had a howler and a growler — both empty — sitting on his desk when the bill came up for debate in the House.
“Ladies and gentlemen, drink beer and make friends,” Sexton joked.
Over 3700 people are working full-time in the craft beer business in Iowa today and Sexton said his research indicates the industry makes an annual economic impact of $329 million in the state.
“This bill is more about helping small businesses flourish in the state of Iowa than it is about selling beer,” Sexton said. “I know we got to laugh a little bit about a ‘growler’ bill, but actually this is an economic development bill for these small businesses in the state of Iowa.”
The bill passed the House on a 93-4 vote. The Senate passed it on 40-9 vote back on March 24. That means the bill now goes to the governor for his approval or veto.