The craft beer community in Houston doesn't let much slip past them. Growlers Beer and Wine owner Doug Bunze found that out late last year when a few eagle-eyed craft beer fans tracked down the store's Web site and Twitter account after he posted a Craigslist ad about job openings at the upcoming craft beer retail spot.
"The Google spiders haven't even found the Web site yet," Doug laughed. "You couldn't just Google us." The Web site and store at 1005 Waugh have since populated into Google as well as Google Maps.
News of Growlers spread quickly on Twitter, although the store's Twitter account, @Growlersmontros, had fewer than 200 followers last week and only six Tweets. Look for that number to grow rapidly as opening day approaches, however.
"We are going to concentrate on social media and building a presence there," said Bunze. "The community here is just so passionate. I've already met so many people who are just crazy about craft beer."
Bunze admits his craft beer knowledge is still growing. To help offset that, he plans to staff the store with knowledgeable people who are just as passionate as his customers. "We are going to do it by committee." he said. "I'm not picking what beers go on. That will be up to the employees." He said the store plans on steering clear of beers you can find in the coolers. The store will have a few mainstays, but wants to focus on more limited and rare selections.
But the highlight of the new store itself isn't the high-capacity walk-in cooler with its custom steel racks fabricated in-house or the wraparound wood-top bar. The star of Growlers is the CrafTap system it will be using to fill to-go containers.
Similar to a commercial bottling system, the CrafTap uses carbon dioxide to create a counterpressure pour. When beer is poured into a container under pressure, the carbonation in your beer stays in solution, resulting in a pour with very little foam. Additionally, since the CrafTap pressurizes the vessel, your beer is coming in very little contact with oxygen and receiving a seal similar to those in commercial bottling and kegging. This, along with heavy-duty plastic caps, "offers a theoretical shelf life of up to a year," Bunze says.
While we probably wouldn't hold onto a growler full of beer nearly that long, it should be stable for extended periods, meaning you'd be free to pick up a half-gallon growler of a very limited beer and not feel obligated to drink it the same day. Think of the possibilities: Pick up three or four gallons of beer over the course of a month, for example, and then have your very own rare-beer house party with fresh draft beer. The store should be receiving its CrafTap fillers -- the first and currently only outlet in Texas to use the system -- within the week.
In addition to draft beer, Growlers will be stocking bottled beer in several commercial coolers so that you can build your own mix-and-match six-pack. Bunze admits they haven't gotten pricing nailed down just yet, but look for news soon. And although beer is mostly what we discussed last week, Bunze says the store will not be limited to beer, as the name would imply. It plans to offer wine as well.
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Growlers is waiting on one last permit clearance before they can officially start selling, but the TABC licensing is squared away. The store may be ready to sell beer in a soft-opening capacity as early as next week.
"We may do something quiet, just kind of unlock the door and just say come check us out early," says Bunze. If you would like to get a first-hand look at Growler's when they open, follow @EatingOurWords on Twitter; we'll give you the heads up as soon as we hear something.