When the clock struck midnight on Tuesday, the folks at Fairhope Brewing Co. were ready to usher in a new era for the state’s taprooms: the era of beer to-go.
Before June 1, you could enjoy any number of beers made at the Eastern Shore brewery, but you couldn’t take any out the door. With the passage of the “growler law,” which allows breweries to sell up to 288 ounces of beer a day, that’s in the past. I spoke to Fairhope brewer Tim Heath before the law took effect to find out just what this means.
Grand Krewe: So, tell me: When June 1 hits, what changes can people expect at Fairhope Brewing Co.?
Tim Heath: Obviously, beer to-go is the big thing. Even though it’s been dubbed the “growler bill” in the media over the past couple of months, we made the decision to go with crowlers instead, which are 32-ounce aluminum cans. Also, it will allow us to sell six-packs and four-packs of our core beers, so we’ll have those available as well as a selection of large-format bottles — some 500 mL stuff and some 22-ounce bombers — on June 1.
Krewe: Large-format bottles, huh? I’m intrigued. Tell me more.
Heath: We wanted to have a wealth of variety, and we also wanted to have some special stuff for Day 1, so if someone wanted to take home a bottle on that first day, there’s bound to be something in that case that they like. We’re going to have Port-Barrel-Aged Merry Widows Imperial Stout, our 51 Pale Ale that was aged in a tequila barrel, and then a new sour golden ale called Mavericks that was fermented with peaches and apricots.
Krewe: Why crowlers and not growlers?
Heath: We know people love their growlers, so it was probably the hardest decision we had to make, but just being able to take aluminum to places where you can’t take glass, like the beach, for instance, was a big thing for us. And with the summer months upon us, we’re going to see a lot of people coming through either on their way to the beach or maybe on a rainy day they pop up here in the taproom. We wanted to make sure we have a product they can take on any of their adventures.
The other nice thing is that the crowler was designed by a brewery for breweries. Oskar Blues and their can manufacturer, Ball, got together to design and fabricate the machine, so it was designed intentionally for beer to make sure you get the best possible product to the consumer.
There are some nice things to be said about the 32-ounce size as well. It’s like the perfect size to share with one or two other people, and if you’re getting it filled 32 ounces at a time at the brewery, it opens up the door for you to try and take home a couple more than you maybe would if you had to get 64 ounces at a time.
The downside is that it’s not reusable, but we will not be passing along the cost of the crowler to the consumer. It’s pretty insignificant in the larger scheme of things, so we felt like that was a fair way to make up for not refilling reusable glass growlers.
Krewe: So, if someone comes in with their favorite growler to get refilled, they’re just out of luck?
Heath: Unfortunately at this time, it’s going to crowlers only. The fear is that if you make the one exception, then there’s a snowball effect.
Dan Murphy is a Certified Cicerone® and the founding brewer at Fairhope Brewing Co. Follow him on Instagram @Grand_Krewe and on Twitter @Beer_Man_Dan.