A growler here, a growler there

Beer stores grow on the Northside

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NORTH FULTON, Ga. – Looking around North Fulton and Forsyth County lately, chances are drivers have seen a new type of business pop up like mushrooms, seemingly in every shopping center. The growler store.

A growler is the actual 64-ounce container that beer is poured into. The stores are somewhere in between a bar and a liquor store, in that they sell beer in containers, but they pour the beer into the container in-house, out of a keg. Athens, Ga. was the first city in the state to allow growlers.

Alpharetta made changes to its alcohol laws this year to allow for the sale of growlers, said Deputy City Administrator James Drinkard.

“Under our previous ordinance, if you are engaged in retail sales, you cannot break the package,” he said. “You can’t take a six pack and sell individual bottles of beer out of it.”

The problem comes in that pouring a growler involves tapping a keg of beer, essentially “breaking the package” to put it into another container.

“It took us a little while to figure out what a growler is and is it something we want and how do we make it work,” Drinkard said.

While Alpharetta was debating its own law, Forsyth County beat them to the punch and passed their own law. Drinkard said the city looked at that, liked what it saw and used the Forsyth law as the framework for its own.

Cody Anderson and Andre Airich wanted to open their business Crafty Draught across from The Avenue Forsyth, but the county’s alcohol law did not allow for growlers because they break original packaging.

Forsyth’s commissioners unanimously approved growlers for beer in early November, making Forsyth the second north Atlanta jurisdiction to allow the packages, behind Duluth.

The state legislature changed the law to allow for the sale of beers with high alcohol content, which Drinkard said opened the door to small craft breweries that specialize in high-alcohol drinks. Unfortunately, many of these brewers are so small, they cannot afford to bottle their beer; instead selling it in kegs to restaurants. With the growler store, these small brewers can still sell their kegs, but to people who want to take the beer home.

Growler stores are opening quickly, so much so that they have been likened to the frozen yogurt store craze from last year.

“The world of craft beer shows that people are willing to step out of the normal,” said Don Edwards, owner of The Beer Growler, on Ga. 9 near Windward Parkway. “People like the different tastes, types and are willing to experiment.”

Edwards, who is opening several stores along the Northside, said the rush comes from simple economics.

“It’s going to eventually get down to your neighborhood growler store, just like a neighborhood package store,” he said. “People are going to ask, ‘What’s in a five mile radius of my work or home?’”

The lure of the stores comes from being confronted by so many unique beers all at once, Edwards said.

“There’s some novelty in it the first time you go in one,” he said. “When you walk in, you’re overwhelmed by 40 different choices and you’ve only heard of one or two. People look at it as unique.”

Aldo Nahed contributed to this article