Okay, I can admit when I am wrong. Way wrong, in this case. Employing my obviously not-so-sharp powers of prognostication last year, I looked deep into my crystal ball and predicted the growler fad would be as quick lived as a cheap fourteen-ounce pour.
For those who don’t know, a growler is a sixty-four or thirty-two ounce refillable glass container for fresh take-home draught beer — and I apparently underestimated the power it wields over the average beer drinker.
What was I drinking, you ask? Well, perhaps I wasn’t drinking enough and when it comes to the growler frenzy, I’m still not drinking much. But I seem to be in a beer bar all by myself on this one. Atlanta has seemingly morphed into Growler Town, USA, practically overnight and many feel the fad is only getting ready to explode.
Growler-only stores are springing up all over town even in the suburbs, stores such as newly-opened Moondog Growlers (688 Whitlock Ave, Suite 3B, Marietta, Tel: 678.354.6268), Marietta’s first growler-only filling station. Owner Eleanor Benson would only smile when asked if she has more stores in mind.
Hop City Craft Beer & Wine (1000 Marietta Street suite #302, Atlanta, Tel: 404.350.9998) owner Kraig Torres, the first in Atlanta to offer these counter pressurized co2 flushed bottle fills of glorious draught beer to the public, believes the market will only continue to strengthen and recently expanded his modest sixteen-tap selection to a mesmerizing wall of sixty.
“We’re seeing that the average beer drinker wants to enjoy his or her favorite draught beer at home in their living room,” says Torres.
And, according to most beer drinkers I have spoken with, he’s absolutely right.
“It enables the draught beer experience in the home environment,” explains local beer enthusiast Caren West, founder of Caren West PR, a popular Public Relations firm that represents several Atlanta area restaurants as well as local brewery Wild Heaven.
Truth be told, all these interviews and quotes are just a journalistic formality. Anyone with two good eyes can see by the lines wrapped around the building at every growler store that beer drinkers have taken a serious liking to take-out draught beer.
Who knew the average beer drinker would play such a role?
What’s technology got to do with it?
Everything, according to Harry Hager. Hager opened our city’s first homebrew store (Amber Waves) a few decades ago and if his name sounds familiar, that’s because he is also a columnist for this publication. He argues that “technology is the appeal.”
Who can refute that? With today’s technology, counter pressure bottle fillers, growler beer has staying power that lasts not just a few short hours, but many days.
Hager credits this technology for the success of new microbreweries such as Red Hare Brewing in Marietta who, thanks to the demand of growlers, isn’t forced to absorb the tremendous cost of bottling, that is passed onto the consumer who is gladly waiting in line to pick up that cost in the form of a $4.99 bottle charge — a mere pittance when you consider the price of draught beer at the neighborhood tavern.
Who is losing?
Generally, when a hot new thing comes to market somebody else suffers. The obvious losers here are the pubs and bars. Think about it, that guaranteed Friday night thirty dollar draught beer tab has been lost to a thirteen dollar growler store pick up.
Does this mean the end for bars? Definitely not.
Drinking establishments, though pricy, offer a much needed social environment. After all, the girl of your dreams isn’t likely to just stumble into your living room out of nowhere.
The other loser, liquor store owners who placed a heavy emphasis on craft beer in their stores. There are only a small handful of these, most of which are reporting a noticeable decrease in craft beer sales since the growler surge. Remember, law restricts liquor stores from selling growlers.
Open letter to all who sell growlers
Please take selection seriously. Get creative and throw us a curve every once in a while. Some of us avid beer drinkers only sparingly buy growlers because you don’t sell anything of interest. There, I said it.
I totally understand that this is a business for you and ultimately, money talks. But is it too much to ask for Belgian brews? You know, the ones that are significantly better on tap.
A nice trippel or quadrupel would do the trick.
I spent two weeks monitoring growler menus, most of which were nearly identical. No surprise there.
But I was shocked to discover that only The Beer Growler (38A N. Avondale Rd, Avondale Estates tel: 404.228.1463) had enough sense to run a Belgian offering.
And while I’m on my soap box, could you work a little harder to give us something unique?
I’m not asking that you load all thirty taps with bizarre off-the-wall stuff, but couldn’t you reserve one handle for the thrill drinker?
…just one measly tap?