For years, beer geeks groused that they couldn’t buy growlers in Georgia. But now, growlers — glass jugs that are filled and refilled with draft beer — could be the biggest Atlanta beer story of 2011.
Early this year, partners Paul Saunders, Denny Young and Sean Galvin opened Georgia’s first growler shop, the Beer Growler in Athens.
In April, Hop City, the Westside beer, wine and homebrew supply store, became the first growler retailer in Atlanta. Since then, growler stations have been bubbling up everywhere, it seems.
Ale Yeah in Decatur launched growlers in late May, and sales have more than exceeded expectations, said owner Eddie Holley.
“It’s increased our overall sales by about 40 percent,” Holley said. “It’s been pretty incredible. On Fridays and Saturdays, we’re selling 275 to 300 growlers over the two days.”
Whole Foods opened a growler station at its Ponce store in July, followed by the Merchant’s Walk store in east Cobb. Look for taps at the Briarcliff store by Thanksgiving, and more metro Atlanta stores next year.
Whole Foods regional specialty coordinator John David Harmon, who pushed for growlers in the metro Atlanta stores, said there’s been a learning curve, setting up the stations and educating employees and customers.
“I think it’s going to evolve into something really cool,” Harmon said. “As we get further into it and have special beers made for us and things like that, it’s going to get really interesting.
“My team is sort of the beer, wine and cheese team. For us, beer and cheese is really a great marriage, and we want to do some tastings and play into the seasonality.”
In early August, the Beer Growler opened its second location in Avondale Estates. The tidy storefront features an impressive display of 40 taps lined up on a wall behind the sales counter, giving the space the feel of a contemporary beer bar.
The Avondale Beer Growler claimed another Georgia first, debuting 32-ounce growlers, in addition to the more common 64-ounce jugs.
“People love the 32-ouncers,” Young said. “We’ve been selling tons of them. It’s a really good size for one person or if you want to try several different beers.”
Young said he’s looking forward to offering an array of fall seasonal craft beers, including Oktoberfest and pumpkin ales.
At Ale Yeah, Holley said local, seasonal and rare beers are what make growlers so exciting.
“You get to switch things up and have events around the arrival of those kinds of beers,” Holley said. “It’s fresh and new and it’s just fun.”
Hop City owner Kraig Torres said he’ll offer a new collectible series of 32-ounce growlers with limited-edition artwork, called “growlettes.”
And Torres, who has 16 taps now, said he plans to greatly expand that number before the end of the year.
“Like any trend, I certainly see saturation hitting the market at some point,” Torres said, “but right now, growlers have done nothing but grow in popularity.”
— Bob Townsend, AJC Drink blog