(EDITED) It’s Official: Illinois Restaurants & Bars Can Fill Growlers NOW

In Beer News by Karl

Some of us have only been waiting for this for, oh, about a decade now.

Governor Pritzer signed HB3610 into law today. This means that on January 1st, 2020, restaurants and bars are finally free to fill growlers, howlers and crowlers for your take-away consumption.

This freedom is not uncommon throughout the US — restaurants and bars in places like Michigan and Florida have had this available to them for years. For example, thanks to the crowler machine at 7 Monks in Traverse City, I’ve walked away from an afternoon there with crowlers of beer from breweries I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to visit — and shared that beer with family, making them quick converts.

It was great. And now we’re able to do it here. And stop arguing about it. Finally.

(UPDATE: This piece was originally posted with the understanding that the law had an effective date of January 1, 2020 — but we have since learned it’s effective immediately per section 99: “This Act takes effect upon becoming law.” So yay!)

For brewers who would have preferred to keep growler and crowler pours all to yourselves, sorry not sorry. This new law probably became an eventuality as soon as taprooms gained the freedom to pour other beers and ciders.

When the Guild got that rule moved through Illinois legislature, the pushback from a number of bar owners and publicans around Chicagoland was pretty immediate — it was seen as brewery taprooms moving in on many of the privileges afforded by taverns. This new freedom definitely doesn’t even the playing field — but it opens up a privilege previously kept just to breweries, tilting the balance back in the other direction a bit.

For beer bar owners and other retailers, it’s time to put in the order for that crowler machine. Don’t forget your growler fill tube, your government warning labels and your vacuum-insulated stainless steel growlers. (Yep! Those are affiliate links. Gotta make a buck somewhere. Ain’t no shame in our game.)

And maybe you might want to start figuring out the law’s specifics so you’re ready to go. Over at the Libation Law Blog (who tipped us to the signing today) they’ve got a good rundown of the hoops you’ll have to jump through. Doesn’t seem too prohibitive…but then I don’t own a restaurant or a bar so what do I know.

I do know this: Soon we’ll look back on this time similar to the way we look back on a pre-Happy Hour Illinois and think, “What took us so long? And what were we so worried about?”

Honestly, I don’t think the impact of this law change will actually be that big. A few places may install crowler stations and some of the better beer bars will no doubt start stocking growlers and howlers to go. The time for a big 64oz jug of beer has more or less come and gone, much like the time of 22oz. bombers of beer has passed us by.

That said, I’m excited to see how better bars and restaurants in downtown Chicago and beyond take advantage of this.

Business dinners at Publican and post-work drinks at Monk’s Pub can become more opportunities to take Chicago and Illinois beer back to the office or hotel. Post-ballgame drinks at Sheffield’s can now turn into another few beers of a special Bell’s or Lagunitas beer back at the AirBNB. A beer or two at Maria’s alongside a Kimski dinner could now turn into extra beers to pour when you’re appearing on The Beer Temple Insiders Roundtable podcast. (Hi Chris!)

It all sounds pretty good to us. And any opportunity to put more local craft beer in people’s hands vs a run-of-the-mill sixpack from a corner convenience store is always appreciated.

That said, the growler and crowler is not without its downsides. With more of these filling opportunities coming to more people, let’s hope that most places willing to take on the responsibility of filling growlers will also inform people that beer is perishable, beer is delicate, beer will not stand up well to opening and closing the cap a whole ton.

This seems like a good time to remind you of the tenets of our Growler Buyers Pledge. We came up with this a few years ago, during the last time the discussion about growler fill legality was being bounced around.

If you ever plan to take a growler of beer home from a restaurant or bar, please repeat after us:

I, the purchaser of a growler of beer, understand that:

  • The beer in this growler is extremely perishable.
  • The beer in this growler begins degrading the second it leaves the tap.
  • If there is a packaged version of the beer, the packaged version of that beer is always preferable to the beer in this growler.
  • If the beer in this growler is purchased anywhere other than the brewery itself, I can not complain about the freshness or flavor of the beer.

I, the purchaser of a growler of beer, will:

  • Drink the beer as soon after filling and opening as is reasonably possible.
  • Finish the growler in one sitting, and not hold it over multiple days once opened.
  • Open the bottle as few times as possible.
  • Rinse the bottle repeatedly with hot water as soon as the glass is empty.
  • Not store the empty bottle with the cap on.

Got it? Good. Abide by these rules and your beer drinking experiences will be wonderful.

Sadly, this means that our Growler Guide is now more or less completely out of date. Please, remember it fondly as a reminder of a time when breweries were your only destination for 64oz. of beer.

That said, we may consider adding another field to our Brewery Map for places that do fill growlers. We’ll see what happens. Until then, we’re glad that Illinois beer drinkers have an added bit of freedom when it comes to their beer choices.

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About the Author



Karl has written about food, travel and beer for Chicago Magazine, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago, AskMen and more. His book, Beer Lovers Chicago, is now available via Amazon and other booksellers.If you're buying, he's likely having a porter or a pale ale.

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