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.
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 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.
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.
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.