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Brewing Liberty Caucus takes first steps toward victory in growler debate

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An old brewers’ adage: “Five ingredients for excellent beer: malt, hops, water, yeast, and friends.”

As Tallahassee lurches into the 60-day 2015 legislative session on Tuesday, state Sen. Jack Latvala and state Rep. Dana Young fired another salvo in the developing growler debate.

In December, the two Tampa Bay Republicans announced the creation of the Brewing Liberty Caucus, which holds its first official meeting on Monday, March 9, starting 7 p.m. at the Proof Brewing Co., Tallahassee’s first craft brewery.

The Caucus is a bicameral, bipartisan caucus intended to educate the Legislature about Florida’s flourishing craft beer industry, as well as provide a forum to debate issues facing craft breweries. The lawmaker’s goal is simple: creating the best business-friendly environment for the craft beer industry.

At the top of the list, one provocative question: Why are 64-oz. “growlers” legal across the country but not Florida, Mississippi and Idaho?

Some critics say it is due to laws favoring distributors, where smaller beer producers, like microbreweries, cannot sell directly to the consumer. Instead, they must sell their product to distributors — then buy it back to sell to customers.

With the rise of craft beer in the Sunshine State, this cronyism is on full display, and the “growler” debate puts it front and center.

Although significant players in industries may be behind these onerous regulations, having the size and scale to comply, growler bans – among other rules — hurt smaller competitors.

In addition, public sentiment, through love of craft beer and free market friends such as Latvala and Young, beer distributors may start to realize the small business breweries are disrupting the status quo.

And the jig is up.

On Monday, the Caucus just might be taking its first steps to victory with growlers, and small business in general.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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