CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Beer enthusiasts mobbed Charleston’s Black Sheep Burritos and Brews Friday evening to celebrate a new law allowing properly licensed beer retailers to refill growlers with craft beer.
When Black Sheep took over at Quarrier Street in Jan. 2014, the law at the time only allowed brewpubs to refill the 64-ounce beer jugs. This meant the restaurant was forbidden to legally sell growlers because the Alcoholic Beverage Control restricted the sale, even though Charleston Brewing Co. is right next door.
Putnam County state Sen. Chris Walters was integral to passing the new bill, saying it would be great for business.
“This is what it’s all about: government getting out of the way so a small business can thrive,” Walters said. “This place has seen close to 250 growler sales so far and it’s still early in the day. Everyone’s really excited to have these small businesses grow. This is about a whole new industry growing in West Virginia.
Black Sheep owner Patrick Guthrie appreciated Walters’ involvement in the last legislative session to help out his restaurant.
“We used to sell growlers, then we couldn’t, now we can again,” Guthrie said. “A lot of people helped us to get this law passed. Senator Walters is a great guy to get this going.”
To show its appreciation, Black Sheep named its newest craft beer after Sen. Walters, who was surprised and honored to have “Walters Wheat” on tap.
“I had no idea they were going to do that until I saw a newspaper article about it last night,” Walters said. “I’m really honored and humbled. It’s fantastic; I never had it on my bucket list but now it’s scratched off.”
Black Sheep General Manager Angela Smith said the restaurant had really missed growler sales, both for the business and for the passionate customers that would come in to fill their jugs.
“Growlers…we’ve been missing them. For seven months now we haven’t been able to sell them,” she said. “Financially we’ve missed them a lot as well as just having those people come in. Because the people who get the growlers are the craft beer lovers.”
She said that people were waiting at the door as soon as Black Sheep opened in at 11 a.m. and throughout the day there had been “non-stop growler fills.”
Walters was excited for what the new law could do for restaurants, the beer industry and the tourism industry in West Virginia.
“It’s really going to help our craft brewers, it’s going to help our restaurants and it’s going to help people who come from out of state who come in here to take some West Virginia product and West Virginia brand back to where they’re from,” Walters said.
The new law also lowered licensing fees for smaller brewers, eliminated bonds for pubs, and will allow breweries to provide samples on tours.
The first 500 patrons to attend Friday’s Growler Fest received a free growler with the restaurant’s logo.