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When the TTB says no but the Pa.L.C.B. says yes: When do you need a COLA for off-premises growler sales?

Norris McLaughlin Liquor Law Blog, Legal Liquor, Ted Zeller, Attorneys at Law

Simply put, if you are a Pennsylvania brewery and looking to sell your products in growlers or crowlers for off-premises consumption, the answer to the question posed above is ALWAYS! 

Recently, we have been approached by clients who have been given conflicting information.  When inquiring to the TTB about whether or not they need a COLA, or certificate of label approval, the TTB had been informing the breweries that COLAs were not needed if the brewery did not plan on selling their products outside of Pennsylvania, which is generally the case for a brewer selling growlers or crowlers out of their brewery or brewpub.  This does not answer the question.  It is important to analyze the regulations of the Pa.L.C.B., which the TTB is not tasked with knowing or following.

In Pennsylvania, under the Pa.L.C.B. regulations, a brewery cannot sell its products for off-premises consumption without registering and receiving brand approval from the Pa.L.C.B.  This is where the inconsistencies between the TTB and the Pa.L.C.B. regulations come to play.  In order to gain brand approval for off-premises consumption in Pennsylvania, a brewery must file a COLA with the Pa.L.C.B.  Therefore, in order for your brewery to sell growlers and crowlers to-go for off-premises consumption, you must get a COLA from the TTB and you must file that COLA with the Pa.L.C.B. to get brand approval for each type of beer your intend to sell for off-premises consumption.

This may sound tedious, but, fortunately for our beloved Pennsylvania breweries, we have helped orchestrate a solution.  We have had discussion with Pa.L.C.B. Malt Beverage Compliance and come up with a plan which will satisfy the Pa.L.C.B. compliance issue and will not be unduly burdensome to small breweries.  There is a way to get one COLA and apply it to all of the brands that you register with the Pa.L.C.B for growler and crowler sales to-go.  Recently, the TTB approved a COLA for generic crowler and growler labels for a member of the Brewers of Pennsylvania, the organization we proudly represent.  These labels feature the logo of the brewery for identification purposes, the size of the container and the required Surgeon General’s warning (we also recommend including your address on the growler label).  The crowler label also includes the address of the brewery and an area where the brewery can fill in the contents, alcohol-by-volume and date the crowler was filled.  The brewery was able to use this generic COLA and use it to apply for brand registration with the Pa.L.C.B. for 24 of its current registered brands. Now they can legally sell all 24 brands for off-premises consumption.  The Pa.L.C.B. Malt Beverage Compliance Office is allowing this under the acknowledgment of the ever-changing nature of a Pennsylvania brewer’s beer catalog, thereby allowing breweries to apply the same COLA for brand registration purposes for each new beer it produces.

Also, please check out one of our recent blog posts on growler and crowler labeling requirements for the TTB and Pa.L.C.B. to make sure you understand the requirements after obtaining your generic COLA from the TTB and brand registrations from the Pa.L.C.B.

For information regarding national and state liquor law matters or general manufacturing and distribution advice, please contact our Liquor Law, Licensing, Manufacturing, and Distribution Practice Group: Liquor Law Department Chair Theodore J. Zeller III, Esquire (; David C. Berger, Esquire ( for Pennsylvania and New Jersey retail and manufacturing licensing; or contact our offices at 610-391-1800.