Written by Bellingham Tap Trail Bottle Editor and Owner of Elizabeth Station, Patrick McEvoy.

I was surprised a few years ago when the liquor board arrived and told me I could not put wine into growlers anymore.  We had been doing it for a few weeks, and had no idea that this would be prohibited.

Then, about a month ago, I again was appalled when they showed up to tell me that giving out samples of beer is not legal.  If a customer wants to come try something before committing to a full pint (or a full growler!), that is apparently not allowed in the state of Washington.  I went through every argument and rationale that I could, but the answer came back the same: “Knock it off.”

I have been fuming about these, because they just make no sense to me.  I have thought about the taxation implications, social benefits or lack thereof, over-serving, serving to minors, all the reasons that proper liquor laws exist.  And I keep coming to the same conclusion: It just doesn’t add up.

The real reason why wine growlers and samples aren’t legal isn’t because the WA state government has outlawed them, of course.

The reason they aren’t legal is because the state government hasn’t made a law allowing it.  Just like there is no stated law specifically prohibiting you getting your neighbor’s dog drunk, it doesn’t mean it is allowed.

However, this last week I took a trip to Tennessee.  There, if you just serve beer, you are limited to an ABV of 6.2; if you serve hard liquor, though, there is no limit (this may be hearsay; that is what I was told while there.  And yes, that was just two semi-colons in one sentence).  In restaurants in the state of Utah, you MUST purchase food in order to have a beer.  Even in Colorado, a stereotypically “craft beer state” they split the definition of “beer” (up to 3.2ABV) and “full strength beer” (over 3.2ABV) and thus liquor licenses will have different restrictions on them.

Here is one of my favorite articles highlighting political insanity (“corporate donations”.)

I think this is all fascinating.

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.” – Groucho Marx

I would love to respond to any questions on the WA legal system of alcohol, if you’d like to know why grocery stores can sample out beer (they can) but not a restaurant, or why the California wine association killed the Washington State wine-into-growlers law, or anything else.

– Written by Patrick McEvoy