In 2013 Savannah City Council changed local ordinances to allow convenience stores and retail beer locations to sell of 32 and 64 oz. refillable bottles called growlers.
Growlers were the original takeaway beer option. Back in the day before bottles and cans were an option, you could fill up your glass growler at your local watering hole and take it with you. Drink, clean the bottle and it’s ready for a refill.
Growlers are an enticing, eco-friendly, option for brewpubs and breweries that don’t bottle their beer. Some say that draft is the only way to drink beer, making growlers a way to have the best of both worlds: draft beer but in a portable bottle.
The first local retail location to take advantage of the new ordinance was Parker’s Gourmet Market downtown. In August 2013 the Georgia based Beer Growler franchise opened a street level location in Drayton Towers serving from 45 taps.
Whole Foods joined the fray when they opened that same month, serving up multiple local options. Suddenly the craft beer culture in Savannah had several new, hot outlets for fresh, portable draft beer.
Fast forward two years and the situation was looking dim. While Parker’s and Whole Foods were very much a viable option for growlers, the Beer Growler, by far the largest option, closed.
Forty-five taps of draft, craft beer gone.
No crying in your beers though craft beer drinkers, rejoice! Hops and Barley has come to the rescue.
Hops and Barley, Savannah’s only craft beer centric bottle shop, has opened a growler bar. The growler bar had a soft opening during Savannah Craft Beer Week but Hops and Barley plans an official opening with some special beers that will be announced at a later date.
David Barker, Hops and Barley’s owner took the “unfortunate opportunity” of the Beer Growlers demise and turned it into a positive. Barker purchased ten of the Beer Growler’s taps, their cooler and sinks.
Installing and maintaining ten taps of draft beer was a daunting prospect for a retailer with little experience working with the complexities of a draft system so he also hired former Beer Growler manager Liz Williams to help with the day-to-day workings of the tap system.
“We’re a little ahead of schedule.” Barker’s long term plans always included a growler bar as they always made sense in his business plan. According to Baker growlers are a significant, untapped revenue stream for Hops and Barley.
He had not planned on adding taps this early but when the opportunity arose, he took it. Growler fills allow him to sell beers otherwise unavailable in his store.
Most craft breweries sell beers that never end up in a can or bottle. These small batch or experimental beers are often desirable to the craft beer drinker. In addition some breweries never can or bottle any of their beers.
Barker mentioned Moon River as an example of a local brewery that releases its beers in draft version only. Local beers are focus for Hops and Barley but Moon River is a brewery that could not be represented on the shelves.
Growlers make stocking Moon River beers a possibility now. In fact Barker plans on focusing on these keg only releases so that Hops and Barley will not only be a destination bottle shop but a source for keg release local beer.
Hops and Barley not only sells craft beer but also has a heavy emphasis on German and Belgian beers. Barker plans on keeping a few of his taps reserved for rotating Belgian and German offerings.
Now that there is a craft beer and growler station store, you might ask how you can get involved. First you need a growler. Hops and Barley will fill all 32 and 64 oz. growlers no matter where they originated.
Bring in your clean growlers from any location for a trade in or a refill and expect to see Hops and Barley labeled growlers available soon.
After that it’s drink, clean and repeat. Baker plans on phasing in a customer loyalty program so stop by and try it out, and help the Hops and Barley growler station grow.
The only downside to growlers; you have to drink them. Growlers are not sealed like a bottle and will certainly lose their carbonation after they are opened so that beer won’t last forever.
You’ll want to open it within seven days and finish the growler within 24 hours of opening to preserve the carbonation and flavor.
A thirty-two ounce growler holds just less than three beers so they can go pretty fast. A sixty-four ounce growler however, that’s almost a six-pack so they are great for sharing.
Drop by Hops and Barley and see the new setup. Installing the growler station involved a significant reorganization of the store, which looks great. Give the new growler station a try, support your local breweries, and try some good draft craft beer to go.