Growlers – reusable bottles shaped like moonshine jugs – are the latest trend in the craft beer movement. Stores that cater to the sale and refill of growlers have been popping up in Marietta, where Moondog Growlers opened on Whitlock Avenue in February, and other metro locations.
At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Kennesaw City Council members will have a final public hearing regarding the sale and refill of growlers in the city.
Seeing an opportunity for new business in the city, Smyrna City Council members in July unanimously amended the city’s alcohol ordinance to include the sale of malt beverage growlers at package stores.
“We just thought while we’re updating the ordinance why don’t we go ahead and make it very clear that growler locations are welcome here in Smyrna,” said Andrea Hall, redevelopment coordinator.
Business partners Kevin Drawe and Brandon King have applied for a license to open the city’s first and Cobb County’s second growler store this fall, called Smyrna Market Beer, in Smyrna Market Village. They said the store will sell other food and beverage-related products as well.
“Everyone loves it; it has just shot out of the roof,” Drawe said of the growth of craft beer.
“I have friends that would come to parties and they would go to different areas of town after they changed the Georgia law to take these basically pitchers of craft beer to go. I was thinking, ‘What better thing to do on a Saturday or Sunday, going into football season, than a big group of people going to fill up their growlers to watch the games?’”
Growlers operate as beer stores and not brew pubs, which are prohibited from selling alcohol directly to customers. In December 2010, The Beer Growler in Athens became the state’s first growler store when it successfully lobbied to have a packaging law reinterpreted in Clarke County.
Growler stores operate under the same alcohol license as package stores, said Dana Johnson, planning division manger at Cobb’s Community Development Agency. Johnson said growlers are already permitted in unincorporated Cobb.
“We allow sales of growlers as long as the seller has a package sales license with Cobb County,” Johnson said.
“The state Department of Revenue does not distinguish between growlers, bottles or beer, or cans of beer. They are all sealed containers allowable for distribution as long as you have the correct license to do so.”
Growler store customers buy a growler one time and then purchase their beer of choice from a selection of taps. They return to the store to refill their empty growlers, which can hold the equivalent of a six-pack of beer.
In 2011, the craft brewing industry grew 13 percent by volume and 15 percent by dollars, compared to growth in 2010 of 12 percent by volume and 15 percent by dollars, according to the Brewers Association.
Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Alpharetta and Suwanee are among other cities where growler stores have opened over the past two years.
If amendments to Kennesaw’s alcohol ordinance are adopted, package stores will be permitted to sell draft beer in sealed growlers after obtaining a $200 growler license fee. Spokeswoman Pam Davis said the city has already received at least one business inquiry regarding selling growlers.
“Business owners have approached the Economic Development Department and expressed an interest in selling growlers; the current ordinance did not permit their sale,” she said.