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Manitobans will soon be able to fill draft beer in growlers; brew pubs pleased

WINNIPEG - Growlers — the large refillable glass jugs already available for beer fans in Ontario, Alberta and other provinces — are coming to Manitoba.

The Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation is in the process of buying equipment for self-serve beer-filling stations, complete with growlers, as part of a pilot project to gauge interest.

"We expect that we will likely launch them, hopefully this fall, in a very few select pilot locations in the province," corporation spokeswoman Andrea Kowal said Friday.

Some craft breweries are also planning to get in on the action. Half Pints Brewing in Winnipeg says growlers, usually 1.9 litres in size, are a great way for customers to bring home freshly poured suds, and try out new varieties.

"It gives us the opportunity to do one-off batches of different recipes that we've never tried before ... and (customers) can let us know what they think," said Amanda Hewitt, office co-ordinator with Half Pints.

The change is part of an ongoing overhaul of Manitoba liquor regulations and is aimed at helping small craft breweries thrive. Recent amendments have made it easier for brew pubs to get licensed, and to offer samples at events such as farmers markets.

The province has loosened restrictions for other licensed establishments. There are fewer rules on food-to-alcohol sales ratios at restaurants. Bar hours have been expanded, and alcohol can now be had at spas and hairdressers.

The lobby group Restaurants Canada welcomed the growlers idea, but said there are unanswered questions as to whether microbreweries and brew pubs will be allowed to sell major-label beer as well.

"Are they going to be restricted to selling their own product ... and if not, why couldn't a restaurant, lounge or other licensee provide the same service?," asked spokesman Dwayne Marling.

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