Grrr…growing into growler fills

Grrr…growing into growler fills

Mac & Jack's growlerGrowler fills are coming! It’s not official yet, but the State Liquor Control Board has posted notice of our New License Application for added endorsement to offer growler fills at our beer store. (Special thanks to all who wrote their representatives and senators, as well as the sponsoring legislators for making this bill into law!)

Next up is a visit from our liquor agent, when he’ll post a public notice on the store’s door. The notice will remain there for a few weeks, during which many customers won’t bother to read, but will be alarmed at the bright paper causing them to ask, “What’s happening? Are you closing!?!” as they enter the store. (Speaking from experience; this is what happened last time a notice for added endorsement was posted on our door.)

So, C and I are now busily preparing for the changes that are coming. Retooling the tiny office by removing the sofa, which we will dearly miss on those days when exhaustion is setting in and a quick nap is necessary to revive, and replacing it with storage shelving. Relocating the sales counter storage into the office. Making room for the giant kegerator and tap system…and all those empty growler jugs. I’m still not sure where the printer will live behind the sales counter; all this will come together as we move out supplies, and move in keg equipment.

C’s already been out visiting breweries and discussing how they do growler fills, discovering the best methods done locally to ensure a clean and sanitary filling station, eliminate excess beer loss, and maintain the longest freshness & shelf life of the packaged growler going out the door. I hope our customers will be thrilled with the direction we’re taking…I know I am!

This morning I’ve been perusing the Web and reading growler fill rules from around the USA. Though you’ll have to wait for our specific rules on the store’s website, following is what a few breweries say.

Stone Brewing Co.

Stone growler fill
A growler filled at Stone Brewing Co. Photo © Stone Brewing Co.
  • You are in charge of bringing your growler in CLEAN and worthy of holding great craft beer.

Well put! Dirty growler = polluted beer. We don’t want to pollute good beer with a person’s dirty growler. Plus the Washington state law clearly states the container must be “sanitary.”

  • State law prohibits us from filling growlers from other breweries, or with beer that is inconsistent with the growler’s label.

Though California law says the growler label must be consistent with the beer inside, in Washington State we are allowed to fill growlers with others’ labels. Our growlers will also include the standard alcohol warning required on packaged beer.

  • If you have an OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale, Double Bastard Ale or Arrogant Bastard Ale 3 Litre growler, it can only be filled with the beer that is on the label. Again, this is state law.

We won’t be offering oversize growler fills, such as those in giant 3L bottles.

  • Last call for growler fills is 15 minutes before closing.

Stone Brewery must have experienced many folks running in at the last minute to ask for growler fills that take several minutes, putting their staff on overtime. I’ll have to remember to include information for final call for growlers. After all, the WSLCB has already instructed us to not process any sales beyond posted closing hour; unchecked bottles must remain in-store & unsold at CLOSING:01PM. 15 minutes ’til closing for growler fill final call sounds logical as it still gives sufficient time to get the bottle orders checked out as well as growlers filled.

  • For Specialty Limited Growler Fills, customers have the option of: Up to two 1-litre Growler Fills, OR One 2-litre Growler Fill, OR One 3-litre Growler Fill (if applicable). Please Note: In cases of extremely limited availability, the above guidelines may be modified in order to serve as many customers as possible.

We already employ the practice of “per person” and “per household” allocations when it comes to selling rare and limited beers. Limits are sometimes necessary to “Share the Beer Love” with as many as possible. We’ll extend the limit to number of growler fills for extremely rare beers — and some beers beers, such as Pliny the Younger, may limited to samples only, with no to-go fills.

Mac & Jack’s Brewery

  • Please bring in CLEAN CONTAINERS; dirty containers can not be filled.

Interestingly, this is only rule posted on their website. However, they gave us heads-up on a few more rules that come into place when you’re at the brewery, such as: No juice jugs. Mac & Jack’s uses a CO2 counterfill setup, which maintains the freshness and life of the beer for a longer period. Because juice jugs aren’t built for pressure, the CO2 will cause the jug to explode! (A danger to both employees and customers.) Unfortunately, there’s not an easy way to tell if the container’s a true beer growler or a juice jug other than the serial number printed on the bottom of the jug. And with so many serial numbers out there, they must simply trust the customer’s word. As for how they check for “cleanliness”, their employees turn the growler upside down. If there’s a drip, the growler isn’t clean. They also sniff the growler for any funky aromatics.

Victory Brewing Company

Victory has one bad-ass growler filler. The brewery says of their custom-engineered German-made filler, “This bad boy dispenses up to 20 different beers, only after evacuating the custom made (and equally badass) growlers with CO2. Then they are filled from the bottom with the beer of your choice, and sealed. All in about 30 seconds. You can check it out on the video or in person at Victory Brewing, where they will be happy to fill one for you.”

As for “growler fill rules,” their website simply states:

  • Growlers can be purchased and filled at the bar.
  • The 68oz. German growlers are $15 to purchase (empty).
  • Some brands may have restricted growler fills.
  • Once you own your growler, simply wash it with hot water to prepare it for its next fill.

It appears that they only fill 68-ounce German style growlers, as their filling system was specifically designed for use with this style. One really nice thing about this custom filler is it restricts to the German design, so the brewery doesn’t need to worry about strange containers like Mason jars, juice jugs, and plastic containers being brought in for filling. It’s also fast, has virtually no waste, and offers sealed product freshness for a longer period of time than the traditional growler-fill method. Victory’s is clearly a superior growler filler, but with a price tag starting around $18K, before shipping fees from Germany to the USA, it’s one filler that this mom-n-pop can only dream about.

So, as I read thru the growler pages of these and so many other breweries, I can’t help but realize that we’re sure to make some customers “grrr” at us. “Grrrs” for refusing fill their unsanitary and/or odd containers (e.g., empty juice and milk jugs, oversize containers, mason jars). “Grrrs” for the time it takes to fill a growler (i.e., the new law states “growler fill at time of purchase”, which means no prefilling before the customer comes in to present ID & pay). Hence, my goal will be to list the rules for growler fills in short, easy-to-recall format — and C’s goal is to set up a growler filling station that has reduced waste, with quick filling capability. Our goal as we do all this research is to lessen the “grrr” as we grow in to growler fills.


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