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Jack Latvala orders another round in beer growler battle

It was one of the most spirited battles in the Legislature last year, pitting scrappy independent craft brewers against wealthy beer distributors intent on preserving their dwindling customer base.

On Tuesday, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, renewed the fight, filing a bill that would give microbreweries what they have long craved: half-gallon "growler" containers. Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, plans to file an identical companion bill in the Florida House.

SB 186  would allow local breweries to fill up the 64-ounce containers for customers to take home, which is currently illegal in Florida thanks to resistance from large beer distributors such as Anheuser-Busch. Brewers now can fill up containers that are 32 ounces or 128 ounces, but not those that are 64 ounces, which is the most popular size because it's large enough to satisfy and small enough to consume in one day (it goes flat soon after opening).

Mitch Rubin, the executive director of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, said his group doesn’t plan to oppose Latvala’s bill this time.

“It’s a good bill, but we suggest the label requirement include alcohol by volume,” Rubin said, asserting that many growlers don’t contain that information.

While Rubin wouldn’t say if his group would propose new restrictions on craft breweries, he did say any additional rules will be separate from the growler issue.

“I’m taking them on their word right now,” Latvala said.