Local craft breweries in the Northland have been working hard for the last few years to "free the growler." Minnesota has a lot of craft breweries across the state, and one of the fun things about visiting a taproom is bringing home a growler of beer. However, Minnesota had a law on the books that wouldn't allow breweries to sell growlers if they produced a certain amount of barrels of beer a year. Minnesota is the only state that has had restricted growler sales of this kind.

What's the deal with the Free The Growler Bill, & why was it needed?

I interviewed both Castle Danger Brewery & Bent Paddle Brewing about the Free The Growler Bill, and what that would mean to them if it was signed into law. The production limit for barrels of beer was 20,000 barrels. Castle Danger crossed that mark 2 1/2 years ago and they were no longer able to sell growlers. Bent Paddle was getting close to that mark as well, and it started to play a role in planning how much beer they would produce.

Fortunately, Governor Tim Walz signed the bill into law on May 22, raising the production limit to 150,000 barrels.

It didn't take long for customers to show up for growlers.

I followed up with Jamie McFarland, co-owner of Castle Danger Brewery, about how the bill passing has affected their business. As you would expect, both Castle Danger and its customers are thrilled.

"We had people showing up the very next day hoping to get growlers, but unfortunately we had to get the license in the mail and couldn't sell them until June 2nd."

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Jamie worked with the City Of Two Harbors ahead of time to streamline getting the off-sale liquor license worked out so that as soon as it passed they could mail off the application to the state. "The community has come together and the city has been very helpful in making things as smooth and quick as possible to be able to sell growlers again. It's been great to see," said Jamie.

Is Castle Danger going to run into the production limit cap anytime soon?

Lawmakers often questioned why breweries kept coming back to them asking to increase the production limit cap for growler sales. The problem, according to Jamie, was that they would only raise the cap a few thousand barrels at a time. With the big increase to 150,000 barrels Jamie says, "We've got a lot of runway and will be in good shape for a long time."

Growler sales are booming.

The first people to buy growlers showed up at 11:15 in the morning on June 2, and waited for Castle Danger to open. They were local regular customers and they just couldn't wait to bring a growler home. Jamie says it was pretty cute.

They do have a couple of growler-exclusive beers that you can't find in any liquor store. The Sea Salt & lime Lager has been extremely popular, along with the original "Free The Growler Beer." That beer was brewed to bring awareness and help pass the bill. Fitting now that that beer has been freed to leave the taproom as an off-sale growler. It's now called "We Freed the Growler."

Castle Danger
Castle Danger

Currently, Castle Danger is selling the 64-ounce growlers. They've been looking for other sizes to offer, but supply chain issues have made that a challenge. For now, people are happy to get their hands on any size growler and enjoy the refreshing beer brewed right in Two Harbors, Minnesota.

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