Washington Cider Industry Celebrates Passage of Growler Bill

March 11th, 2014 · 8 Comments · Cider

NWCA 2013 Logo ButtonFor cider drinkers who would like to bring draft cider home to enjoy, a bill approving growler fills for cider was recently passed. I’m a big fan of growler fills for beer, and it is nice to see cider getting equal treatment.

Press Release from the Northwest Cider Association:

Olympia, WA – Lawmakers have passed legislation which, once signed by Governor Jay Inslee, will give Washington’s cider industry a real boost.  The bill, SB 6442, allows growlers to be filled with hard cider at retailers, bars and taverns, just as beer has been for years.

“The timing is perfect. The ability to sell cider in growlers is really good for Washington State’s growing cider industry and is great news for our retailers and consumers,” said David White, president of the Northwest Cider Association and owner of Whitewood Cider Company. “Cider is more popular than ever and with growler stations popping up nearly everywhere, this gives cidermakers access to a growing niche market.”

Refillable growlers come in various sizes, and cider is poured into them straight from the tap.

“It’s no surprise that Northwest cider drinkers tend to be more eco-minded,” White continued.  “Growlers allow them the same benefits and advantages of reusable packaging that beer drinkers have been enjoying for years.”

The “cider-to-go” concept is also catching on in other parts of the country.

“We expect this law to significantly increase sales of draft cider in Washington, just as a similar law did for cider sales in Oregon last year,” said Colin Schilling, owner of Schilling Cider in Seattle. “In Washington, some bar owners who do ‘growler fills,’ were hesitant to carry more than one cider on tap. This change will allow them to add more ciders to better reflect customers’ preferences.”

The Northwest Cider Association was founded in 2010 and represents 42 cidermakers from Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and British Columbia


8 Comments so far ↓

  • R

    I know one local cider producer who maintains that in Washington it is still not permitted to dispense kegged cider at all since he believes that the WSLCB regulates cider as a wine. Can you do a little research into this issue?

    I know my favorite bottle shop has had cider on tap and happily filled growlers for quite a while. I can’t tell if it is ignorance or if they have just been taking a calculated risk.

  • Aaron Brodniak

    The legislation passed does indicate that cider may be “filled at the tap” just as beer. However, there may be an issue with alcohol content for some ciders, if they exceed 7 percent. Here is what I found for a definition of cider from RCW 66.24.210:

    (6) For the purposes of this section, “cider” means table wine that contains not less than one-half of one percent of alcohol by volume and not more than seven percent of alcohol by volume and is made from the normal alcoholic fermentation of the juice of sound, ripe apples or pears. “Cider” includes, but is not limited to, flavored, sparkling, or carbonated cider and cider made from condensed apple or pear must.”

  • Kaiser

    Very interesting. I wonder how closely that definition will be followed or enforced.

    Thanks for the clarification, Aaron.

    Just looking at what Capitol Cider lists on their online taplist, just 2 of the 20 ciders they have on tap are > 7% ABV.

  • R

    Apple juice/must typically has a specific gravity in the neighborhood of 1.050 which if fermented completely dry would have 6.55% ABV. A cidery isn’t going to accidentally get much more than 7% ABV, they’d have to be adding additional fermentable sugars.

  • Kaiser

    Thanks, R. Good to know. I’m certainly a newbie to the cider world.

  • Emmett

    Actually, traditional cider can easily go up to about 8.5% abv, with the average generally agreed to be 6%. There are a lot of great Somerset ciders that nudge above the 7% mark. This law still falls in favour of mass-produced “cider coolers”, where the ABV can be carefully adjusted to match regulations. It’d be more sensible to restrict it to cider that contains 100% apple juice, whatever the ultimate abv of that fermented juice.

  • John Morgan

    Hi guys,

    Allow me to clarify this. I’m a board member of a group called Family wineries of Washington State. Along with the Cider folks, who’s bill we actively supported, we ran a bill this year that would have allowed wine to be filled in growlers at specialty shops, taverns, restaurants and winery secondary tasting rooms (same places as cider and beer are now allowed). The Washington wine Institute and California Wine Institute objected to every location except winery secondary tasting rooms which is all that passed this year.
    What is ironic is that they did not object to the cider bill (yay for the cider folk!). Ironic because, wine is cider under both federal and state law. Period. RCW 66.24.210 (6) exists for the express purpose of defining cider for the purpose of extending it a tax break verses other wine. It now also serves as the basis for allowing wine made from apples and pears under 7% to be filled in growlers where beer can be filled.
    What we now have is simple discrimination against table wine in that format. Nice huh?
    And no, no wine regardless of fruit origin over 7% may be filled in growlers anywhere but at a winery/cidery or their secondary tasting rooms as authorized by RCW 66.24.170 (4)

  • John Morgan

    And may I respectfully ask, Emmett, why you think it (growler filling) should be “sensibly” restricted to cider and beer not table wine?
    I don’t mind telling you I think the prohibition is idiotic, anti consumer, and anti environment. Glass bottles represent 65% of my winery’s carbon footprint.

Leave a Comment