Milk containers replace growlers as Qld brewers innovate

Queensland brewers have proven that necessity is the mother of invention in the wake of growler refill bans in the state.

The state’s brewers are getting innovative following the ban on growler refills announced by the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation Queensland last week.

After a period of confusion, the liquor licensing regulators posted on Facebook that they would not be changing rules relating to the ban on growler refills from customers’ own growlers or squealers.

“Cleaning and sanitising BYO containers is more difficult than a standard beer glass, so it’s possible a customer’s container could be contaminated and pose a risk to your staff and business,” the authorities said.

“Despite venues assuring us they have suitable cleaning and sanitation processes on site, this does not reduce the risk that occurs directly to your staff and business when it is handed over.”

The liquor authorities said they understood it was an “extremely challenging time” for the state’s venues who want to generate revenues, but said they needed to “ensure we are doing everything we can to minimise transmission.”

Labelling on new growlers will still need to meet the Australian Food Standards Code, it reiterated, which includes detailing the volume and abv of beer on the container.

Lee Mcalister-Smiley of White Lies Brewing Company said that the decision was a blow to the industry, and they had been hopeful that the restrictions would be relaxed in the wake of the pandemic, as brewers struggle to diversify.

“Breweries are a lot different to bars that might offer growlers and squealers, in that we have sanitisation regimes in place,” he said.

“We were operating under the assumption that if you have a valid procedure on how you’re going to mitigate any risk, then you can continue to operate.

“We’ve implemented sanitisation, we were not directly filling customers growlers. They were dropping them off, we were sanitising them and then next time they came they could swap them back again. So we wouldn’t fill a growler that hadn’t been sanitised.”

However instead of accepting the rule and only allowing expensive new growlers to be sold, breweries including Brendale Brewing Company, Bacchus and White Lies went back to the drawing board and came up with a novel solution to the problem.

Bringing in new plastic containers usually used for milk, they have been able to sell growler-sized containers of beer, without the pricetag that comes with buying a new glass growler every time you head to the brewery.

Mcalister-Smiley said that they and the team at Bacchus had been thinking about it since the regulations came in, and have brought in four pallets of new milk containers. White Lies started selling them mid-week.

“We were expecting these things would probably come in,” he said, but mentioned that customers were reacting well to the changes.

“People are understanding that with all these rules and regulations, every business is just trying to navigate a minefield at the moment, so you will probably get some more out-of-the-box ideas like this.”

He said the move away from growlers due to the restrictions was a blow as they were a popular seller, however there have also been shortages of glass containers.

“From the brewery side, growlers aren’t cheap vessels, so it requires a lot of cost to hold a pallet of glass vessels. These are inexpensive and we can offer them at no extra charge for the customer.”

Despite the challenging times which had forced the move, Mcalister-Smiley said that brewers are looking for the silver lining in the situation, and were having to adapt fast.

“In a matter of four days we went direct to the public and online, so there are some positives that have come out of this, we’re doing deliveries, changing our business model on the fly,” he said.

“We will be fine and get through this, and we’ve seen sales consistent, though we’ve lost our high margin business in the bar.

“But we’re lucky here, we’ve got strong community.”

The ATO is allowing licensed venues which do not have associated excise licenses to sell takeaway alcoholic beverages said the IBA this morning in an update to its members, although as the incident in Queensland has shown, state rules also apply.

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