The Importance of Cleanliness
Mulvihill opted for a tap system in part because he was wary of the potential for cross-contamination between different beers in more complicated systems with shared lines. “Our filler is 16 individual taps, so the beer coming out of that tap is specifically that beer,” he says. There is no chance that a little porter from a shared line ends up in a growler of pilsner.
Creech, using the counter-pressure system, takes an extra step to avoid mingling beers. “All the beers coming into the filler are on their own line. There’s only about a foot of shared beer line. What I do between fills is put an empty growler in and blow CO2 through the line. It will knock out whatever beer was in there last to make sure the next person is getting the beer they ordered and it’s not contaminated with whatever the last person ordered.”
The cleanliness of the growler is also paramount. All three retailers check customers’ growlers before filling with the most basic technique: the sniff test. The retailers have limited facilities or time to sanitize empties thoroughly, although all three will give growlers a quick rinse. Daniels will sometimes swap a dirty growler for clean one, gratis. New customers are given helpful tips: “Don’t leave them in the back of the car, don’t leave them in the sun, don’t leave the cap on. After you’ve told somebody once, they pretty much get it.”
Training and Results
Operating a growler station requires staff training, both on operating the equipment and on answering the questions that come with this personalized service. Daniels finds that “if you’re at the growler station, you’re having a blast. You’re attracting a crowd around you and everybody’s amazed that you know that much about the beer.”
On the revenue side, a growler station is a plus. “The profit margin’s better for the growler, for sure, so no complaints on my end,” says Peco’s Mulvihill. “One thing that worried us at first was if we would we have increased growler sales and lose package sales, but what we see more and more is guys come in with their growler and decide what they want to fill up with it. We fill it for them, and in the meantime they pick up a six-pack.” BD
Julie Johnson was for many years the co-owner and editor of All About Beer Magazine. She has been writing about craft beer for over twenty years. She lives in North Carolina, where she was instrumental in the Pop the Cap campaign that modernized the state’s beer laws.