Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comment from Cuvee Coffee Bar.
The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission has seized the crowler machine from Cuvee Coffee Bar in Austin, according to announcement Tuesday.
Earlier this summer, TABC deemed crowlers, 32-ounce cans filled with draft beer and sealed onsite for drinkers to take home, illegal at bars and retail locations. The thinking is that canning is a manufacturing process granted only to those who hold the proper manufacturer's permit.
"Cuvee Coffee has been charged with possession of equipment or material for manufacture of unauthorized beverages after TABC auditors witnessed employees illegally canning beer without the proper permit on multiple occasions," says a press release. "The action comes after the retailer was issued a written warning for the same violation June 25, at which time TABC gave them 30 days to cease canning operation."
Cuvee was among the first Texas retailers TABC approached and told to discontinue using the machine and remove it from the shop, but owner Mike McKim recently said on record he would not comply.
"I do not agree with the TABC's interpretation of the law. Therefore, I refuse to stop selling crowlers," McKim told Houston Press.
Cuvee Coffee Bar issued a statement late Tuesday contending the decision to continue filling and selling crowlers was strategic, "driven by our desire to obtain a judicial ruling on our use of the crowler," the release says.
"[W]e were simply exercising our right to petition the courts for a ruling ... The violation formally issued by TABC today begins that process," Cuvee said.
The move will no doubt have implications statewide.
Cuvee, Oskar Blues Brewery, inventor of the crowler and crowler machine, and Dallas beer bar Craft and Growler previously sent a memo to TABC arguing against the commission's interpretation of the law. Oskar Blues product manager Jeremy Rudolf told GuideLive in July the issue stems from a lack of definition for the term "growler."
"Most people know it as a piece of glass, when it can really be made out of any material," Rudolf said, adding he hoped to draft a petition to challenge the law.
TABC has not banned growlers, glass or ceramic to-go vessels for beer. Crowlers are something of a cousin to the growler and considered by many as superior because the aluminum blocks more light, keeps beer fresher longer and is recyclable.
Several businesses in North Texas offered crowlers, including Lone Star Taps and Caps in Lewisville, which was the first retailer in the nation to own a machine. While the machine itself is not illegal to possess, Taps and Caps has since stopped selling crowlers, as has Whole Foods Park Lane and What's on Tap in Highland Village.
Two local places, Noble Rey Brewing Co. in Dallas and Collective Brewing Project in Fort Worth, are permitted to fill and sell crowlers, however. According to Chris Porter, TABC public information officer, anyone who has a permit that allows them to brew beer onsite is allowed to can it, via crowler or the more traditional method. But if they offer other breweries' beer, these establishments may not sell it to-go in a crowler.
"The canning process is reserved for only those who brew beer onsite," Porter said.
TABC says Cuvee Coffee must pay a fine and stop filling crowlers or the penalty will increase with every future violation. This may include cancellation of the the shop's beverage license.