Sunday, February 2, 2014

Growlers, Growlers, Growlers!

Fill 'er up! Empty 'er out!
Although Oregon has some fairly strict laws when it comes to hard liquor sales, our beer (wine and cider, too) growler fill rules are some of the most unrestricted in the country. Here's a handy-dandy outline from the OLCC: click here 

Cool, huh? Of course, many less beer-enlightened states don't allow growler fills from taps at all--if they pour you a beer, you drink it there, or else. Other states allow fills, but the pouring establishment must supply the container. Bummer, other states! We have it good here in Oregon.

Basically, any retail store, bar, brewpub, or winery with an appropriate OLCC license can fill any refillable, securely-covered container that holds under two gallons. Most growlers hold either 64 or 32 ounces of liquid. Your typical growler is a simple, brown glass jug with a screw on cap. However, there are many different kinds of fancier, more reliable growlers available, such as the Lifeline 50/50 Insulated Growler

Growler fill stations are popping up all over the place. In addition to the usual suspects--your local brewpub, brewery and taproom--grocery stores are finally starting to get into the act. 

Fred Meyer (Freddie's to the locals) is large retailer here in the Pacific Northwest. My neighborhood Freddie's has a large inventory of housewares, furnishings, hardware and appliances, along with everything you'd expect in a full-sized supermarket. It's kind of a one-stop shop. Fred Meyer has always had a fairly well-stocked cold case, and they recently took it up a notch by installing a growler fill station right in the middle of the beer and wine section.
Now pouring...

The set-up at Freddie's is fairly simple, but slick as can be. There are two separate batteries of taps. 16 different craft beers are available, most from well-known, popular Oregon breweries. 64 and 32 ounce fills. An empty growler--complete with the Fred Meyer logo--costs $4.99. Of course, you can (and should) bring your own clean growler every time. The actual filling has to be done by a store employee with an OLCC service permit.

I found a very good selection at Freddie's. The prices aren't cheap, however. A 64 ouncer runs from $9.99 to $15.99, depending on the brew. Still, you're paying for the convenience, so I'm not grumbling too much. I'm hoping that when the novelty wears off a little, the prices will become a little more competitive. The occasional sale price would be nice, too.

When I first started drinking craft beer, way back in the late 1980's, it was difficult to convince the liquor manager at my neighborhood supermarket to stock my favorite brews. I certainly would have never imagined that one day I'd be able to wander into the grocery store and find more than a dozen taps of fresh, delicious craft beer available for take home growler fills. Amazing!

Every so often, I read some doom and gloom article predicting the looming "saturation point" of the craft beer industry. Supposedly, the bottom is going to drop out and every craft brewery is going to go out of business, leaving us with nothing but Bud, Miller, Coors to choke down. I don't see that happening anytime soon.

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