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Empty growler? Fill it with cider or wine

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In addition to authorizing limited sales of spirituous liquor at distilleries, changes in alcoholic beverage laws now permits businesses that sell beer-filled growlers to alternatively fill them with hard cider and wine.

“This really opens a new door for us,” says Chris Creech, co-owner of The Glass Jug in Durham, who started filling growlers with Bull City Ciderworks product a few days after Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law on June 19.

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"Customers have been very excited about the addition of cider, particularly those with gluten sensitivities or those that prefer something other than beer." Ryan Bogard of Bull City Ciderworks is thrilled about being able to fill growlers on demand and be represented in bottle shops. "I think we'll pick up a lot more accounts now," says Bogard, who hopes to announce a new East Durham location for his cidery in the next two weeks.

The Glass Jug currently lacks the appropriate equipment for serving wine on draft or in growlers but may offer it in the future. "If the labeling is not an issue, we'll do this as soon as we get some growlers," says Marek Wojciechowski of Cary's Chatham Hill Winery, which makes wines onsite. "We may go with smaller growlers. With wine, if you buy it in larger quantities, unless you have a party - or are able to drink it yourself - it could oxidize. That happens even in a regular wine bottle."

Doug Diesing of Seaboard Wines in Raleigh has no plans to add growler service. "It's so new and there's no many wines available on kegs," Diesing says. "I don't know what kind of traction it will get."

Craig Heffley, owner of Wine Authorities stores in Durham and Raleigh, believes wine growlers will provide benefits to retailers as well as consumers, who will save in the long run with significantly lower wine prices.

"We'll pass the savings along to our customers," says Heffley, who is working with U.S. and European wineries to keg wines "that were previously only available bottled from the estates." For some, it will mark the first time they will bring kegs of wine to the United States.

With bottles and corks on order, Heffley aims to start growler service in about two weeks with Grüner Veltliner from Austria, dry Riesling from Germany, and an American red wine.

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