Growler Wars – comparing north Fulton and Forsyth’s growler stores

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today’s article is co-written by Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

Growlers are the frozen yogurt of 2012. These specialty beer stores are sprouting up like weeds all over the burbs. Certainly they all can’t survive, so how will they compete? Will it be price, service, variety of selection?

Or will those that were first to market rule the day? Typically the first growler store in each municipality literally wrote the local ordinance. That’s been the case with Crafty Draught in Forsyth County and Blind Murphy in Alpharetta. And in Blind Murphy’s case, they worded the law such that samples are allowed, a clever competitive advantage.

So together with my blogging partner Mike Christensen, we set out to try them all. From Cumming to Roswell we filled our beer jugs with brew from each store. It’s a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it! Here’s how they compare.

Blind Murphy Craft Beer Market
53 South Main Street, Alpharetta
Hours: M-Ths 10-8, F-Sa 10-10, Sun 1-7

Blind Murphy opened a month or so ago in the Kell’s building in downtown Alpharetta. Owner David Sheets doesn’t want to be considered just a growler store. He wants to be an entire beer supplier, from growlers to bottles to home brewing supplies and brew classes. They’ll fill 32 and 64 ounce growlers in addition to tap-poured 12 ounce bottles you mix and match.

And thanks to Alpharetta’s growler ordinance that Sheets helped write, one ounce samples are available, three per person per day. 30 taps are available with plans to offer up to a thousand bottled beers. Selection tends to be more seasonal than the competition with a current emphasis on ales, IPAs and heffes rather than stouts and porters. Local brews include Red Hare and Monday Night Brewing.

Prices are very competitive over the competition. They also plan to donate net proceeds to local charities. Blind Murphy’s social media presence is decent with a focus on Facebook. Watch the tricky parking during peak traffic times.

Crafty Draught
415 Peachtree Pkwy #215  Cumming
Hours: T-Th 11-9, F 11-10, Sa 10-10, Sun 1-6, Closed Monday

The guys at Crafty Draught where the first on the scene and have had time to build a following.  They have 20 taps, glassware and bottled beers. Their growler bottles have different graphics, some quite funny. A rewards card is available.

They have a large social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and their website. Unfortunately Crafty Draught is a little pricier compared to the other shops.

They have a good selection of beers from IPA, ales, stouts, cider and root beer. Local beers include Jailhouse and Terrapin. They are very friendly and are ready and willing to talk beer. A ping pong table is in the store for your enjoyment.

Tap It Growlers
5354 McGinnis Ferry Road #204, Alpharetta
Hours: M-Th 12-8, F-Sa 12-10, Sun 1-6

Unlike the competition, these guys quietly opened with little fanfare or social media push. They are owned by the folks behind Mangia, a pizzeria in the same stripmall.

Tap It is a pure-play growler store. They have little plans to offer much of a selection outside of draught beer. Their 30 taps pour some variety although connoisseurs may bore of mundane selections like Negra Modelo and Sierra Nevada.

What could set them apart, especially to stout drinkers, is their nitro draughts. They also fill growlers via a tube from the bottom up and fill the air with CO2. The claim is that this adds some shelf life to your growler.

Cumming Growler Shop
1770B Buford Highway, Cumming
Hours: M 10-10, T-Th 9-10, F-Sa 9-11, Sun 12:30 – 7

The Cumming Beverage Mart skirted the Forsyth growler ordinance a bit. The liquor store, unable to sell growlers, added onto the back of the store with a separate entrance for their growler business. Clever.

They have 20 beers on tap with the usual 64 and 32 ounce bottles for sale with pretty cool resalable tops. In addition to the taps, there is a small selection of glassware and one rack of bottled beer.  It seems the growler store was just an attempt to cash in on the growler craze with not a lot of thought put into it. You’ll notice a beer pong kit consisting of a few Solo cups and some ping pong balls wrapped up in plastic. Classy touch.

They do not have a website, but they are on Facebook with a list of what’s pouring.  Prices are comparable to the average, with a few very expensive beers running at an eye watering $30. Service was lacking as the staff didn’t seem eager to discuss beer.

Ale Yeah
408 South Atlanta St. #157, Roswell
Hours: T-Th 11-9, F-Sa 11-10, Sun 12:30-6, Closed Monday

Decatur-based Ale Yeah recently opened their second store in Roswell on Hwy 9 south of the Roswell Square. It’s apparent that this is not their first rodeo. The shelves are all built and stocked with many bottles of beer organized by type – Ales over here, stouts and porters over there, fruit, sours and IPAs.  There was even a small section of wine.

18 taps are on the back wall appearing to be as almost an afterthought, as if the bottles were the main show. They have a large selection of local brews from Monday Night, Red Hare, Terrapin, and Sweetwater. Prices are on the website and they are about the same as everyone else. They are on Facebook and Twitter and know what they’re doing. Employees are approachable and knowledgeable with a passion for beer.

City Growler
214C Atlanta Hwy, Cumming
Hours: M 4-8, T-Th 11:30-8:30, F 11-10, Sa 10-10, Sun 1-6

City Growler has been open for nearly three months in the Olde Town strip mall just east of downtown Cumming. They have 22 taps but a limited selection of bottled beers.

They have a large variety of beers such as IPA, heffes, stouts, ciders, and a very popular root beer. There are several local brews available with some limited editions from Georgia brewers. The prices are on par with all of the other stores if not a little lower. They are on Facebook and Twitter with Facebook being the more active.

Staff is knowledgeable, very chatty and willing to educate both newbies and experienced beer drinkers.

12 Responses to “Growler Wars – comparing north Fulton and Forsyth’s growler stores”

  1. JP July 20, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    Call me old fashioned (or whatever else you want), but I just don’t get the whole growler thing. Let’s see: You can’t drink in the store (boring), you buy draft beer in large quantities to bring home to consume (it goes flat), they are opening all over town (over saturation).

    My predicition? They’ll all be closed in 6 months. By the way, I LOVE beer and drink it often.

  2. Cool Papa Bell July 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    JP, you love beer and drink it often, but consider 16oz a “large quantity”? Do you drink your beer from a nipple?

    The day I can’t drink 16oz before it goes flat, I will switch to drinks with little umbrellas.

  3. JP July 20, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    Try to read the article, Mr. (un)Cool…”They’ll fill 32 and 64 ounce growlers”

  4. SCSA31274 July 21, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    Blind Murphy will have 12 oz bottles filled from the tap wall that you can mix and match for a six pack. It’s a great idea.

  5. Cool Papa Bell July 21, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    JP, it was actually a slight mental error as I was thinking most bars have 16 oz beer and it was equal to two beers.

    So let me correct the 16 oz error. Are you telling me that you love beer, drink it a lot, but consider 32oz (two beers at a bar) a “large quantity.”

  6. DRW July 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    JP, some of us don’t like to drink in bars so much, and most of the beers I get in growlers aren’t available in bottles. Unopened, they stay fresh for at least 5 or so days, and once opened they are still OK the next day – 3rd day is drinkable but admittedly going a little flat. I think the market will thin them out but one or two will survive.

  7. Cool Papa Bell July 21, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    DRW, I am kind of in the middle. I *love* drinking at a bar, but it’s more a social thing. Growlers are cheaper than bars, so I can buy the more expensive stuff. Not that I always use perfect judgment when I go to bars, but I get a growler and I can also get a higher ABV.

    Less money and higher ABV is a nice combo. And 32 oz…a lot?

  8. jsmith July 24, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    Great article. I have been to all the store mentioned plus several others. I would be worried if I were Blind Murphy though, it is a State written law that prevents samples. The city cant supersede that.

  9. Raj July 25, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    There is no State law that prevents samples. Sweetwater has been doing brewery tours for years, where they sell you a glass, and then give you free samples.

    The atttraction of growlers is to get beers that the brewery only sold as draught to bars. You can’t get it in bottles, and it’s a way to take it home.

  10. Lee July 25, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    I don’t know about the state law. Most cities, including Alpharetta, have lawyers on staff that write or review ordinances before they go to the politicians for votes. I’d like to think they bounced specifics of the new law (like samples) against state law first.

  11. ontherocks December 11, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    As for the quantity that you must buy and the issue of it going flat,… Just plan ahead and share it with one or more of your friends. If you give them some advance warning, most people will not refuse free beer!

    Someone else may have stated this (I am in a hurry), there are some varieties that are not available in bottles, so a growler to share may be your only way to enjoy something special. I am glad the growler shops are here.

  12. Joe October 29, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Raj, you’re incorrect. State law does not allow open containers in retail package to-go stores, period. Sampling by law is illegal in this case. Bars and restaurants can sample and pour as they are on premise consumption only. Breweries in this instance can provide samples as they are not selling to-go products, but are limited to 16ozs of samples per person. The brewery laws don’t have anything to do with package sales. A lot of cities have written in codes allowing sampling but it’s still against State law, so any store offering samples, whether free or not, is breaking the law.

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