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Beer Town: Growlers keep on growing

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.

Whole Foods Growlers Credit: Bob Townsend

Whole Foods Growlers. Credit: Bob Townsend

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

15 comments Add your comment

Crawford Moran

September 14th, 2011
2:34 pm

Everywhere else on the planet – outside of GA – local breweries and brewpubs sell growlers. They are a great way for people to get fresh, local beer to take home and enjoy. Unfortunately in this state we are still prohibited. Seems silly.

Marshall Stacks

September 14th, 2011
3:17 pm

Love going to Ale Yeah, especially when they have limited edition fills like the Heavy Seas Red Sky At Night from a firkin! And why am I just now learning about the station at Whole Foods?!?

John Sukroo

September 14th, 2011
3:23 pm

For those in the burbs, a growler store is opening in downtown Duluth soon.

David Lindquist

September 15th, 2011
11:22 am

Here’s a link to the growler store that’s opening in downtown Duluth:
http://www.thebestofbrews.com/
It will be open before the Duluth Fall Festival (9/24 – 9/25)

J to the G

September 15th, 2011
11:30 am

Does the Ponce Whole Foods require you to buy one of their growlers, or can I fill up my Hop City one there? Anyone? Anyone?

That said, I’ll probably buy one of their 32oz-ers, anyway…

Brian30101

September 15th, 2011
4:58 pm

My concern is how long til the cops start writing tickets for open cotainers for growlers. They are closed, but not in the way a bottle is

Beer Connoisseur Magazine

September 15th, 2011
5:04 pm

Atlanta’s own Beer Connoisseur Magazine covers the latest on who and where to get growlers from as well as the beers available. http://www.beerconnoisseur.com Great magazine!

Al Kaholic

September 15th, 2011
5:31 pm

I’m all for it. On Sundays, too. And, driving while buzzed to the maxxx! Who needs a good brain and a working liver?

slider mahoney

September 15th, 2011
5:40 pm

the posers are know the cool kids. blech!

Amanda

September 15th, 2011
5:48 pm

J to the G – you can bring in a growler from home to any place as long as it has the government warning regarding alcohol consumption

Bud Wiser

September 15th, 2011
5:51 pm

The Intown Market across from MLK MARTA station just added a growler facility as well. Can we go easy on the impact of this trend? Let’s be real, do we really needto “educate” folks on the challenging process of purchasing beer? But all in all, it’s nice to know Atlanta has joined the 20th century, even as we are 10 years into the 21st.

Wrecker

September 15th, 2011
6:58 pm

No tickets for open containers. They are usually shrink-wrapped with a heat gun.

Wrecker

September 15th, 2011
7:00 pm

Al Kaholic – Do you want to regulate what happens in my bedroom too? Just because you cannot hold your alcohol, do not assume we cannot. Sanctimonious loser.

btownsend

September 16th, 2011
1:24 pm

Thanks for all the comments. But let’s try to keep them nice and on topic and not feed the nutty prohibitionist trolls.

I intended to mention Intown Market. Thanks for that, Bud. Savi Urban Market has a new growler station in the works, too.

As far as ‘educating’ folks about ‘purchasing beer,’ I’d say there are still plenty of questions out there about the hows and whys and pros and cons of growlers — even among beer geeks.

I’ve talked to a lot of brewers, including some you would know from other states who happily sell growlers at their breweries, who nonetheless have misgivings about putting their beer in jugs.

Personally, beyond being able to grab something rare that’s draft-only, I see growlers as sort of expensive and a bit of a hassle. Questions about whether growlers are actually earth-friendly, I’ll leave to the experts.

kp

September 19th, 2011
5:11 pm

I love to see the move from 64oz to 32oz growlers so that you don’t have to commit to drinking that much beer in one evening. I’d like to see even smaller ones like 22oz or even 12oz. Another good idea would be to prepackage them for quicker service so that the customer can come in and grab one ready to go out of the cooler or off the shelf. Maybe even package multiple of the smaller sizes in a multi-pack.