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As Craft Brewery Sales Climb, Growlers Fill With Beer

According to a recent report from the Oregon Employment Department, two thirds of Oregon counties have either a brewery or brewpub. And according to the Brewer’s Association — an industry trade group  more than half of Americans now live within 10 miles of a craft brewer. All that fresh beer is convincing many beer lovers to forgo traditional six packs and bring their beer home instead in refillable glass containers known as growlers. David Nogueras explains.

If you’re a fan of craft beer, here’s a good chance you already own a growler.

If you have no idea what one is, I’ve actually got my hands on one right now. This one is made of brown glass and is about the size of a 2-liter soda bottle.

A growler made by Boneyard Beer.

A growler made by Boneyard Beer.

Boneyard Beer

The mouth is wide, about the size of silver dollar, it’s closed off with a nifty ceramic seal, and it’s got a built-in handle for easy transport.

Thanks to its convenience and efficiency, the growler’s popularity seems spreading beyond just breweries.

This Bend Stop & Go Mini-mart and Shell station recently opened a growler filling station right in the store.

Behind the counter, customers can choose from a selection of 30 different craft beers to go, almost all of them from right here in Oregon.

Lisa Morrison/OPB

Kaiser Couch runs the Stop & Go along with his father, Kent. He says he and his dad are always scanning the convenience store trade publications looking for ways to stand out from their competitors.

Some of those ideas stick - others, not so much. Couch tells me about the purchase some years back of a machine that dispenses instant oatmeal, much like a cappuccino machine.

“Ah, we maybe sold 10 oatmeals in 6 months,” he says. “So it’s out back on the ground right now. I’m looking for someone who wants an oatmeal machine to take home.”

Lisa Morrison/OPB

But he says with growler station has been a hit thanks in large part to the Oregon’s vibrant beer culture.

“Most of these beers that we have on tap, you can’t get in bottles and cans, you can only get them on tap,” says Dolly Haney, one of the gas station’s bartenders.

And for that reason, growlers are popular not only with craft beer fans, but the brewers themselves.

Across town is Boneyard Brewing. Unlike many of it’s competitors in Bend, Boneyard doesn’t have tap room or even serve food. But it does fill growlers.

Co-founder Tony Lawrence says the brewery probably fills 700 a week. And he says these bottles are playing an important role in the company’s growth as the two-year-old brewery continues to build its following.

“Cause we currently don’t package, we’re a draft-only brewery,” Lawrence says. “So for now, until we get a packaging line next year, it’s the only way for us to get it to the table at home.”

And for other brewers that are just getting started, growlers probably represent the most cost effective means of packaging their product.

Lisa Morrison/OPB

For that reason, brewers in states that don’t allow growlers have been pushing their state legislatures to do away with those laws as a way to promote industry growth. And so far those efforts have been met with some success.

Washington put a law in place this year allowing for growler fills. In Arizona, language that allows for growler fills was included in a broader liquor bill at the request of the drugstore chain Walgreens.

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