This edition of our Tuesday Contributor series is written by Carol Cochran. Carol and her husband Tim are working on opening Horse and Dragon Brewing Company in Fort Collins by Januaury, 2014.
I love growlers. I love that they have a smaller carbon footprint than non-reusable bottles and cans, I love that they enable me to share despite feeling somewhat possessive about my beer (I realize this feeling is not the craft way, but there I selfishly am), and I especially love that inside every one, if it’s treated right, is some delicious offering from a local craft brewery. I appreciate the very size and shape of the growler, which suggests a long history. Every time I see or heft one, I feel that surely some folks snuck around with moonshine in these jugs. Perhaps some still do. A growler is the type of container your grandma felt comfortable toting around. And drinking from. A growler fits in your refrigerator and urges you to have people over. I believe every fridge should have one. I think the growler lifestyle sparks the imagination.
For those of you living in a community with a craft brewery (or 12), you don’t have to imagine this – you can live it. For those of you living in a community that doesn’t (yet) sport a brewery, you may, instead, find yourself heading to your local liquor store to grab a 6-pack to share. That’s also a good option, and I’m not knocking it. But here in the State of Beer, I think it’d be great for everyone over 21 to have access to a growler of fresh beer. I think every bike should have a couple of these wooden growler holders on it, just on spec: You pass a local fresh beer source and you can pull on over and fill up. (Shade it on the way home, natch.)
However, in Colorado, if you don’t live near a brewery, you’re in for a journey to fill these babies. You can take your own container in to buy more spices, more olive oil, and more gasoline, but you can’t find an outlet that can legally fill up your beer container unless you head to a brewery. For those of you living in a craft-brewery-less community – and even for those of living in blessedly craft-brewery-filled communities — I think we should change this.
Let’s say I’m living in Sterling. Do I have a local option? I don’t believe I do (but forgive me, Sterling-Brewing-Co.-That-I-Don’t-Know-About-Yet, if I’m wrong). Would I like the chance to serve my friends 5 different types of fresh craft beer at my weekend barbeque? Yes I would!
Let’s say I’m visiting for a ski week almost anywhere in Colorado. [I realize there are many ski towns with breweries or brewpubs that can fill your growler.] Let’s say one night my friends and I are going to après ski on the condo couch. Do I want to do that with a freshly poured beer? Indeed I do. I’d like to wander in to the local beer outlet – run by someone who cares for and knows about craft beer, treats it right, and wants to showcase some of the great microbreweries Colorado has to offer – and fill up a couple of growlers to sample with my feet up by the fire. And I CERTAINLY want visitors to this great state of craft beer to have that experience.
It turns out a couple of states are ahead of us in this regard. North Carolina is busy enacting a law allowing additional outlets to fill growlers. Wisconsin seemed way ahead of the game when Whole Foods in Milwaukee installed a growler-filling station years ago. [When I called to see how that was treating them they said a couple of beers last only 2 days on that system, because people run in to fill up.] I wouldn’t mind visiting this place , 99 Bottles, outside Tacoma, WA: and I love the irony of the name of the shop juxtaposed with their page on growler filling – though of course, a growler IS usually a bottle. And how about these Growler Guys in Oregon: [Who was it who told me about a growler filling station/car wash in OR?]
I do realize there are some legitimate concerns on the part of all of us – manufacturers, suppliers, and consumers – about being able to do such a business well, take good care of the product, and to supply outlets. But with the BA saying there’re close to 200 craft breweries in Colorado (and likely that many more on the way in the coming years), I think there’s some room for small breweries that aren’t bottling or canning their beer to send a keg or two along to specialty growler-filling outlets in a couple of other towns around the state. If all breweries do this – even if some can supply only one or two kegs to one or two outlets — there’s going to be a decent variety in those outlets. A lot of breweries are too small to provide a constant supply of kegs to multiple outlets. I’d be happy to go in for a special fill, whenever someone small sent along something of theirs, and I’d not complain when that supply ran out and something else came on tap. And I wouldn’t mind the eventual resultant downturn in bottle sales. We’re drinking local, and drinking together, and we don’t need so many single-serving bottles. Take a look at this graphic from New Belgium if you’re unconvinced we should be trying to use fewer small bottles. Or this article from The Coloradoan on how most of our bottles don’t actually get recycled.
There are glimmers of support at the state legislature for changing current laws to allow this. I think we can make it a movement. C’mon now, Colorado! Fresh craft beer for everyone!
Now go fill your growler and enjoy some craft beer with friends tonight.