If you’re a beer lover in Georgia, you’ve probably heard about The Beer Growler in Athens –
currently the only place in the state to buy beer by the growler, a 64oz. bottle that is filled from the keg at the store and sealed for freshness (and because the police say so). We paid a visit to the six-week-old shop to pick up some beer (of course) and to get the lowdown on all things “growler.” Growlers are a popular form of beer distribution in many states, and are picking up steam – the New York Times recently covered the growler takeover of the New York beer scene. The key benefits are getting access to fresh (and sometimes rare) beers from the keg in a re-usable (AKA environmentally friendly) jug, which often means better pricing AND better quality. Good deal for everyone, right? Well, regulatory issues have prevented widespread adoption of growlers. And in Georgia’s notoriously unfriendly beer environment, it wasn’t until very recently that the folks behind The Beer Growler – Denny, Paul and Sean – were able to clear the regulatory hurdles in Athens (though those hurdles still remain in Atlanta).
The Beer Growler has a constantly evolving lineup of 20 beers on tap, ready to be filled into their empty growler jugs. The selection varies from week to week as kegs sell out, but it includes a heavy rotation of Athens’ own Terrapin beers (5 of the 20 current beers are from Terrapin) and a diverse mix of world-class craft beers from such stalwarts as Lost Abbey, Bell’s, Southern Tier, Stone, and Ommegang. Another frequent inhabitant of the lineup is Georgia-based Wild Heaven Ode to Mercy. The shop also offers a small but excellent selection of beers by the bottle.
First-time customers need to purchase a growler jug for $4, which they can then bring back any time they’re ready for something new. The investment is well worth it. The folks behind the bar actually trade out your empty growlers for sanitized ones, to make sure contamination is not an issue when refilling. Another step to make sure quality is top notch is that the staff uses the “cap on foam” technique to fill your growler – basically, by filling the jug up and capping directly on the foam that forms, there’s no room for oxygen to interact with the beer and a nice clean headspace of carbon dioxide sits on top of the beer once the foam collapses. This maintains the quality of the beer, preventing oxidation and the potential for the beer to go flat. The growler can maintain quality for weeks while sealed, but why wait? And, once opened, the growler should be consumed within a couple days.
If the amazing beer lineup isn’t reason enough to check out The Beer Growler, they will also be holding their official Grand Opening celebration this Saturday, February 5, complete with giveaways, brewers and beer reps on site, and (maybe) the appearance of some Sierra Nevada Hoptimum and Lost Abbey Angel’s Share on tap. Growl on!
UPDATE (Aug 8, 2011): The Beer Growler will open their Atlanta area location in Avondale Estates on Aug 12!
The Beer Growler
1059 Baxter St
Athens, Ga 30606