New South Durham shop plans to sell craft beer in growlers

Feb. 09, 2014 @ 06:20 PM

 Growler Grlz wants to bring fresh craft beer from the tap to you.

The planned craft beer shop expects to sell beer in the jug-like, re-sealable containers called “growlers” in South Durham later this year.

The shop aims to allow consumers more direct access to craft micro-brews that may not be available in cans or bottles yet, or that were prepared in smaller batches, said Cary resident Karen Poulsen, the entrepreneur behind the new business.

She’s envisioning having 42 taps of craft micro-brew beer in the new shop. It’s targeted to open at the end of March or in April in the shopping center off Hope Valley Road that also houses the restaurant and bar City Beverage.

The idea is not to open a bar, she said, but to have a place where consumers can get growlers filled with craft beer that can be taken to a barbecue or a party.

“It’s going to be fresher than a six-pack or a bottle, and it’s going to be, the kinds of beers that you probably couldn’t get very often in a six-pack or a bottle,” she said. “We’re talking to them about some of their small batches.”

Poulsen said she’s a transplant from Oregon, where she said growler-filling stores are a growing trend. She hopes to open other shops in the Triangle after the Durham location.

She’s said she can open the store thanks to a new state law passed in June of last year, allowing retail merchants to sell growlers of beer.

Sean Lilly Wilson, the CEO of Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery and the president of the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild, said retailers were pushing for the right to sell draft beer in growler form in North Carolina like breweries already could do.

“So breweries already had this right to fill from the tap and sell growlers, but retailers prior to this change, didn’t,” he said. “Now they do with some stipulations.”

Wilson said brewers had a range of opinions about the proposal, but a main concern that surfaced was over whether the product would be handled safely with good labeling and sanitation practices.

“That’s why we worked with the N.C. Retail Merchants Association….and the N.C. ABC, to come up with reasonable policies to ensure inspection and cleaning and proper labeling,” he said.

Andy Ellen, president and general counsel for the N.C. Retail Merchants Association, said a number of its members also do business in South Carolina filling growlers, or had visited stores in South Carolina and had seen the filling stations. He said it was “widely successful” in South Carolina and in other states, and members wanted to do it here too.

“It was a tremendous foot-traffic driver, especially as the craft market as grown,” he said. “A number of craft brewers -- they don’t get to the bottle or can until a certain stage; this gave a store an ability to have a variety…that they wouldn’t be able to have because of packaging.”

While the law passed last year, it charged the N.C. ABC Commission with setting standards for the practice. Agnes Stevens, a spokeswoman for the commission, said the retailers have been able to do growler sales since Oct. 25, when temporary rules went into effect. Permanent rules are in the initial review and approval process, she said.

Ellen said the association was sensitive to the concerns of the brewers, and wanted to make sure their product is dispensed in a “sanitary way that maintains the flavor and everything else.” He said growler stations are popping up in wine and bottle shops, and there is one in a Lowes Foods in the state in Clemmons, in the Triad area.

Growler Grlz is targeted to open in the area of South Durham that will soon become a hub for craft beer and bottle shops.

Sam’s Quik Shop is opening a new craft beer bottle shop in a new building off N.C. 54 behind Woodcroft Shopping Center, and across from Hope Valley Commons. And already in the Woodcroft Shopping Center, the Hope Valley Bottle Shop is selling independent fine wine and craft beer.

City Beverage and Mattie B’s Public House, which is in Hope Valley Commons, already have large beer selections.