In early 2010, The New York Times ran a feature about growlers, an old-fashioned beer vessel that was suddenly “the beer accessory of the moment” among shoppers in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Park Slope.
Until recently, growlers — 64-ounce glass jugs filled and refilled with draft beer — couldn’t be found anywhere in Georgia. In fact, most beer geeks and beverage store owners figured growlers weren’t legal here.
But at 5 p.m. on April 14, Hop City owner Kraig Torres will be the first to sell growlers in Atlanta when he opens the new “growler station” at his Westside beer and wine shop.
“We are finally bringing metro Atlanta in line with the beer-drinking population outside the state of Georgia,” Torres said. “We’ll have 16 rotating taps, primarily with beers that aren’t available in bottles.”
Four months ago, partners Paul Saunders, Denny Young and Sean Galvin opened the first Georgia growler shop, the Beer Growler in Athens. But first they had to go to the Department of Revenue for help.
“We were the ones responsible for changing the law at the state level,” Saunders said. “We basically wrote the legislation the department approved for us to be able to fill glass bottles.”
A few weeks ago, Sachin Patel, owner of Athens 5 Points Bottle Shop, opened another Athens store, 5 Points Growlers, pouring more than 40 craft beers in growlers.
“Business is good,” Patel said. “We’re averaging around 30 or 40 growlers a day. But it’s taking a little education for people to understand that it’s 64 ounces of draft beer to go and it’s great to take home for sharing and get-togethers.”
Torres, Saunders and Patel said the appeal of growlers is simple.
“Draft beer tastes really good,” Torres said. “If you get a growler of beer poured from a fresh keg, you’re probably getting the most authentic bar experience you can have in your living room.”
Hop City’s 64-ounce growlers will be priced between $6.99 and $24.99. An empty growler is $4.99, but can be returned and refilled in perpetuity, making it an eco-friendly option.
“All you do is bring back your jug,” Torres said. “We’ll sanitize it and refill it for you. As a beer drinker, it’s the best thing you can do for the environment.”
In addition to rare and draft-only beers, Torres said he’ll regularly feature beers from Georgia brewers, including Jailhouse, Red Brick, Sweetwater, Terrapin and Wild Heaven.
A partial list of what will be pouring at Hop City on April 14: Jailhouse Breakout Stout; Port Mongo Double IPA; Red Brick Dog Days and 16th Anniversary; Terrapin Moo-Hoo and Rye Squared; Victory Braumeister Pils and Donnybrook Stout; Wild Heaven Invocation and Ode To Mercy.
Judging from what’s happened in other states, it seems likely that growlers will be popping up in more places around Georgia. Atlanta Whole Foods stores and Ale Yeah in Decatur are good bets.
“I think we can see where this is going,” Patel said. “I mean, there’s a Walmart in Charlotte selling growlers now.”
EVENT: 5 p.m. April 14, Hop City “growler station” grand opening. Hop City Craft Beer and Wine, 1000 Marietta Street, Atlanta, 404-350-9998, hopcitybeer.com
— By Bob Townsend, AJC Drink blog