Growlers Grow on Atlanta

Fresh filled growlers (64 oz. jugs, pictured above) are now firmly established in the Atlanta beer scene, with the area’s two preeminent beer shops – Ale Yeah! out east in Decatur and Hop City on the Westside – happily updating fans as they kick kegs practically daily and replace them with something new. We picked up growlers at each of these two fine shops last week and had a good Saturday night with some La Trappe witte (a stellar summer-friendly Trappist ale) and some Phillips Amber Ale (solid stuff, brewed to go well with seafood).

Growlers offer a fresh, economical and environmentally friendly way to pick up good beer, and are downright fun to share with friends. Here’s a quick look at the growler sections of Atlanta’s two retail beer stalwarts.

Hop City was Atlanta’s first entry into fresh filled growlers. Kraig and company have established a true beer destination for Atlanta’s beer lovers, and their sixteen tap growler section is no exception. Kraig explained their approach, “for our growler choices, we want to make sure we cover as many tastes as possible. You will always find at least one wheat beer, one dark (porter or stout), an IPA/Pale or three, a Belgian-style, a brown, a brown/amber, and alager/pilsner. During the summer months we will lean toward the lighter stuff. During the winter we will be more likely to break out the barleywine.” They also try to maintain a wide range of price options, from the almost always present Sweetwater IPA at $6.99 per fill, to super rare beers like de Struise Outblack which runs $49 for a growler fill, but they focus on beers under $20/fill. Watch out for rare beer releases each Thursday night, and special “tap takeovers” as well – Stone is next on their list with eight beers from the highly regarded brewer coming in to “Growler Town” at once.

Ale Yeah! in Decatur followed in the footsteps of Hop City, setting up shop across town in Decatur. They focus more exclusively on beer (no wine section), and their growler station is comprised of eight taps at the back of the store. Eddie at Ale Yeah! is highly knowledgable, and can point you in the right direction no matter what your tastes are. He explained that they seek a balance of styles in their growler lineup, saying, “our philosophy for growler fills is primarily to maintain a good cross-section of styles: IPA, wheat, funky/sour, lager/pils, stout, brown/red, etc…” In general, IPA’s and local beers such as Wild Heaven‘s Ode to Mercy have been very popular for them. Their most expensive growler thus far was Rodenbach Grand Cru, a fabulous Flanders red ale, at $30.99 for the fill. Ale Yeah! is constantly adding new and interesting beers to their growler lineup, and keeping Decatur beer lovers happy in the process.

Meanwhile, The Beer Growler, a shop that opened in Athens last year and paved the way for Hop City and Ale Yeah!, plans to open their own Atlanta area outpost next month in Avondale Estates. We’ll soon find out exactly what they have in store for Avondale, but expect a strong presence for Terrapin and Wild Heaven beers given the Athens and Avondale connections. Cheers to more growlers for everyone.

UPDATE: Just read about ANOTHER growler stop in the Atlanta area: “Beer growlers are now being filled in Roswell, Ga.!!! All Y’alls Wine & Gourmet Market is the first and only place north of ATL to fill and retail beer growlers. We currently have 5 awesome beers on draft anxiously waiting your consumption. For more details, call All Y’alls and ask for Kevin a.k.a. ” Beer Pimp” at 678-226-9464″

UPDATE 2: Now Whole Foods on Ponce in Atlanta is also selling a small selection of beers by the growler, yeehaw!

UPDATE 3: The Beer Growler opens in Avondale Estates on August 12. And Whole Foods Merchants Walk (Marietta) is also now selling growlers.

Get Your Growl On: The Beer Growler, Athens, Georgia

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

The Georgia Beer Scene Is Hopping

Some interesting beer developments going on these days in Atlanta (and Georgia more broadly):

First, the legality of selling growlers (a large bottle that may be filled from the tap on site) in Georgia may come to be. From, a letter from the Georgia Department of Revenue was quoted: “The Department [Of Revenue] has determined that, persuant to the Georgia Alcoholic Beverage Code, “growlers” or similar containers may be appropriately used so long as it is at a licensed retail off premise location that does not deal in distilled spirits by the package.“ At a state level, things look good, but local laws also come into play. A store called “The Beer Growler” is set to open in Athens in roughly a week according to the owners (UPDATE, 12/11/2010: They opened today!), and as reported, Kraig Torres, owner of Hop City Craft Beer & Wine here in Atlanta, has said that they are staying on top of developments as well: “Atlanta, and surrounding jurisdictions have not allowed the sale of growlers specifically, despite the revised opinion of the State of Georgia. I am looking into the matter deeply. The DAY growlers are green lighted by the City of Atlanta is the day Hop City will sell it’s first growler.” It’s worth pointing out that you can buy (or sell) pre-filled growler size bottles anywhere – the interesting development is the potential to buy a growler filled fresh from a keg at your local store. Frankly, it’s a bit of a novelty for consumers since it won’t significantly improve the selection of beer available, though some will argue that the freshness of taking it from the keg to the bottle to your home the same day is a strong enough reason to choose a growler over a traditional beer bottled at the brewery.

Second, a new shop dedicated to craft brews will be opening soon on College Avenue in Decatur, Georgia: Ale Yeah! “We will showcase an abundance of American craft beer as well as varieties from around the world that exemplify liquid perfection.  We will carry bombers and also give people the opportunity to “build-your-own” 6-pack.  We will also offer fine cheeses, cured meats and chocolates that compliment the experience of a perfect pint.  Ale Yeah! will also carry a selection of fine brewing supplies in case you’re looking to create your own perfect pint.” Sounds good, yes? (UPDATE, 12/1/2010: Ale Yeah! opened this past week!)

Third, the Brick Store Pub has opened their upstairs “cellar” featuring a tremendous collection of vintage bottled beers. This is a gold mine for beer lovers, with selections spanning the globe and dating back as much as a decade in some cases, with each bottle labeled by vintage. Like wine, some beers (especially the ones you will find in the Brick Store cellar) benefit from time in the bottle, as opposed to the dominant theme of “drinking beer fresh.” This is your chance to try multiple vintages side by side and experience for yourself the impact of bottle aging, not to mention the ability to find some beers that you won’t find anywhere else. We stopped by for a quick tour from Dave Blanchard, one of the owners of the Brick Store:

Fourth!, 5 Seasons Prado, the original location of 5 Seasons, is now Lucky Devil Brewing. Kevin McNerney remains the brewmaster for Lucky Devil – no change to the beer, or menu for that matter. This should actually help differentiate Lucky Devil from the other 5 Seasons locations, as they had been on divergent paths due to different ownership and management over the past several years.

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