Archive - September, 2015

RIP Growler Stores

The era of the standalone growler store in Alpharetta came to an end with the recent closing of The Beer Growler on Main Street at Windward Parkway. Let’s all pour one out of our 64 oz amber glass bottles for the ones that we lost. Places like Blind Murphy, Tap It Growler, Draft Beer Market and Crafty Draught have all left us.

beer with frameI have to admit, the growler concept lasted longer than I thought it would. The city of Alpharetta embraced the idea, making it legal for the growler stores to give up to three one ounce samples per person per visit and later approving the sale of flights. I spent many minutes in Blind Murphy sampling beers from breweries I had never heard of, from places I had never been, and styles previously strangers to my palate. I got turned on to many new and exciting breweries, many of which were small and only distributing their beer in kegs. Community became one of the really good things about the growler stores. It helped small and local craft brewers to get the word out about their products.

Most of the growler stores had five to twelve taps, but Draft Beer Market in Johns Creek went nutty with 64 brews on tap. That place was fancy. Video screens replaced most place’s chalk boards to list what was on tap. While the majority of growler stores gave samples in plain, boring plastic shot glasses, Draft Beer Market went all out with glass mini brandy snifters. My pinkie was in the air when I took those samples.

So if these stores were so cool and hip, why have all of them closed? Well, the standalone growler concept isn’t really good from a business standpoint. People come in, maybe try samples, fill their bottles, and go. There’s no hanging out, no other products for people to spend money on and no reason to stay. These guys were paying rent on a sometimes large, sometimes prime real estate and all they sell is beer to go. A lot of the stores sold glassware or beer in bottles and cans. I’ve got plenty of beer glasses already. If I wanted beer in bottles or cans, why am I going to the growler store when I can go to Kroger or to a liquor store? You went to the growler store for growlers.

That brings me to my next point. The 64 oz jug o’ beer is not suitable for most situations. There’s a party? Perfect! You really, really, really like that type of beer? Awesome! The majority of beer drinkers aren’t going to stomach all that beer before it goes flat and loses its right-out-of-the-tap-on-draught specialness. I found myself losing interest in the growlers and buying my beer in bottles. The smaller 32 oz size growlers were a step in the right direction. But lugging those things around was inconvenient. I had worked up an idea for a growler tote, but that dream was never realized. I did find that my child’s car seat was the perfect transport device for getting my beer home.

Look at the growler places that are still around in Alpharetta. There’s the gas station at Bethany Bend in Milton. Labeled as the first growler gas station in Georgia, it’s perfect. Get gas, buy some lottery tickets, and fill your growler, all on the way home from work. There’s also a growler station at the Whole Foods at Avalon. Again, do your shopping and if you can still afford it, fill up on beer. Two liquor stores in Cumming have growler stores attached. Due to Georgia laws, the entrances are separate, but it’s still relying on another business. These growler stores are a convenience, not a destination.

So let’s not shed too many tears for the passing of the standalone growler store. Changes in the laws let you buy beer right from the brewery, and that’s what we really wanted anyway.

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