By NATHAN GREGORY
The recent change in state beer and brewing laws to allow for high-gravity beverages with higher alcohol levels to be brewed and sold has opened up another related marketing tool for establishments that sell adult beverages: Growlers.
Growlers are large bottles — typically ranging from 32 to 64 ounces — used to carry draft beer that can be taken off site for consumption.
Few restaurants and bars in the state have the option available, including Rosey Baby in Starkville, but with the rising popularity of growlers and a heavy college-age population in the city, local restaurant owners say they’re looking into the possibility of making them available. Gas stations in the state have also started offering growlers, including Brewski’s in Starkville.
Rosey Baby manager Chris Crissey said the concept of growlers caught on more quickly with an older-than-college-age crowd when the restaurant began offering them, but growlers are gaining popularity with a younger population as well.
“In the past few years, beer has actually turned into a fine wine with the different crafts of beer and people experimenting with beer. The idea is trying to get these draft beers to the public and because a lot of people enjoy draft over bottles most of the time,” Crissey said.
He said the option of taking the beer off site is one of the main selling points of growlers.
“I have customers who come in and use them for tailgating. We’ve got one customer who has about four growlers. At his tent he has them lined up and people can come by, pick one and taste the beer.”
Each time a person comes back to the restaurant to refill the growler, Crissey said, an employee re-seals the bottle by heating a plastic cover that melts to the top of the cap so there is no potential for violation of open-container-in-vehicle laws.
Starkville Police Department Master Sergeant and DUI specialist Shawn Word said if more establishments begin selling growlers in the city, he does not see the potential for a rise in drinking and driving.
“I can’t see any extra issues with it as long as it’s legal to do it. If it’s legally obtainable in a 12-ounce can, I don’t see any difference in getting a 32- or 64-ounce bottle,” Word said. “They sell 40-ounce bottles at gas stations now, so this is just a different breed of beer.”
The new option also will not affect enforcement of open container laws in the case of a motorist having a container with a broken seal in the vehicle.
“At that point it’s still an open container. If you screw off the cap and screw it back on, the seal has been broken and that is a beer,” he said. “It all goes back to if people drink responsibly and legally, you don’t have problems. It’s people who decide to drive after they drink that are the problem.”
Halfway House co-owner Kenneth Toler said offering growlers is ideal for people who want draft beer but don’t want to drink it at the bar.
“I think it will benefit us more. Say you have the older gentleman who wants to have a draft beer but doesn’t want to be in the bar scene. He just wants to enjoy it in his own surroundings wherever he may want to go, whether it be fishing or golfing or whatever.It’s just better to have more options like that available.”
Ty Thames, chef and co-owner of four Starkville restaurants, said he’s considering making growlers available because many smaller breweries only offer their beers on draft, and carrying their blends will help their businesses grow. He said he’s open to filling growlers patrons bring themselves or selling the glass bottles from breweries to customers for them to keep and come back for refills at their convenience. Patrons who are at one of his restaurants to eat and also want to have a growler for a group of people at a table would also have that option, he said.
“If it catches on, that’s something we would offer in our restaurants for sure. The biggest point is that it would be most beneficial to breweries without bottling plants,” Thames said. “I think it’s a good option for customers to try beers that aren’t offered in bottles. It’s good all the way around to have options and variety so the customers can choose what they want.”
Martin Crawford, general manager of Old Venice Pizza Company, said he would consider bringing growlers to his restaurant under the condition that they are only to be consumed off site, but believes there are possible drawbacks to them, particularly for small restaurants with a lack of storage room. The restaurant has pitchers for groups who want to split a large volume, and growlers are more for individual use, he said.
“People like drinking cold beer. The more it sits out, the hotter it gets, so it could cause a person to consume more alcohol than they need, and that’s not what we’re looking for,” Crawford said. “It’s a pretty neat idea and a good marketing tool, but I think it’s better for at-home use than commercial use.”