I’m not sure what it all means but: I was invited to the Growlers opening event on Tuesday. Does this mean I am a professional…something? I don’t know, but it mostly felt weird because Growlers isn’t a bar, it’s strictly a growler fill station and my first reaction was; If you want beer to go, why not just buy a bottle/can at a store or a pub?
Talking to one of the owners, Jim Hillman, it became a bit clearer. He told me that their goal was to give people beer that, once they took it home, would allow them to have the next best experience after getting and drinking the beer at the brewery. To that end, he said, they even installed CO2 taps so they could purge the containers and keep the beer fresh, if unopened, for two weeks. That isn’t something I see at pubs, for the most part.
Plus, take a look at the beer selection:
There are 40 of them, ranging in style and including four cider taps. While there are some well known beers there, like Deschutes’s Red Chair, there are quite a few that I don’t see bottled. And while a whole lot of bars will do growler fills for you, I think it’s pretty neat that someone is dedicating a space to the idea.
It also feels Portland as all get out. First, there’s just the business itself, which is a weird enough idea that it feels like it ought to work. Then there’s the “bike lane” painted on the floor, so bike riders can just stroll on through. There is the emphasis on reusing your containers to keep the environmental impact low. On top of that, because you can only sample a beer at Growlers, no pints filled, no real on premises consumption, people walking down Hawthorne with their kids can bring them in, pick a beer out, and go about their day. There are even non-alcoholic beverages-I saw kombucha on tap- to pick up if someone wants that. There’s pretty much something for everyone.
What I was most curious about was the effect of not having a place to sit down. The thing about any bar or pub is the social element; we (mostly) don’t drink alone and Growlers doesn’t allow for such things. I asked if they were worried about that but the manager, Ruby, told me it was the opposite; people would come in, stand at the counter and start talking to each other and the staff about what to get. I’ve started many a conversation at a pub about just that subject and I think it’s cool that it has translated to a place like Growlers.