I can't even remember how the topic came up. But the guy sitting next to me at the Hairless Hare Brewery in Vandalia made a startling comment.
He had brought a growler into a local establishment and tried to get it filled. The business refused. The growler had been purchased elsewhere and he was told that he had to buy one of its growlers. State law, the business said. It could fill only its growlers.
Baloney, I responded. That place was just trying to sell a growler and make more money off him. Then, thinking more about the wackiness of some state liquor laws, I conceded it could be true.
The Hairless Hare bartender said she didn't know. At a later visit to Lock 27 Brewing in Centerville, the bartender insisted that she couldn't fill a growler unless it was a Lock 27 growler or they slapped a Lock 27 sticker on it. And they didn't have any Lock 27 stickers.
This wasn't the first time I had heard such an argument. Months earlier someone told me that he was turned away from an Acme grocery store in Akron because the chain would fill only its growlers. During my next visit to Acme, I handed over a RooBrew-stamped growler. It was filled with no hesitation and the worker at the growler station said there's no such store policy.
At that time, I thought nothing more about it. But my recent experience at Hairless Hare and Lock 27 -- both, by the way, produce some tasty beer -- got me wanting to get to the bottom of this mystery. Is it illegal for Ohio breweries and businesses with growler stations to fill growlers other than their own? Are they required to put a sticker on a growler purchased elsewhere when filling it?
Turns out: No. And no.
"Craft breweries can fill growlers regardless of the branding on the container," Matt Mullins, spokesman for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, said in an email. "There is no regulation specifically addressing this, but it’s a 'best practice' that when a customer brings in a growler with a different company’s name on it, the business filling it should put on some kind sticker to identify the product that was sold."
What does "best practice" mean? The state recommends a sticker but it isn't required, Mullins said in a follow-up phone call.
Now, that said, breweries and businesses can refuse to fill someone else's growler if they want. That's up to the individual business. It's just not against the law.