Today in the Food Section: Craft Beer in Growlers; Indoor Farmers Markets; Chocolate Tours and Dessert Wines

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Today in print, Chris Serico has a really cool story about the rise in popularity of growlers — those half-gallon jugs used to transport craft beer from its tap to your fridge.

defiant

Here’s a link to Chris’s story. I’ll also post it in its entirety, after the jump.

(BTW, I know the Times did this story a couple of weeks ago; we had already started reporting when it came out, and we think the local angle is good, too: it’s timely and a different take on the trend.)

Also in today’s section:
Indoor Farmers Markets in the Lower Hudson Valley. (TJN)
Dessert wines are great for a sweet touch on Valentine’s Day. (LAT)
A sweet niche: chocolate tours in NYC. (AP)

Other food stories this week included:
A tour of Flushing: ‘The Other Chinatown.’ (AP)
and Metromix’s round-up of local chocolate shops for Valentine’s Day.

D

espite the name, growlers have been giving beer-lovers plenty of reasons to smile in the Lower Hudson Valley.

To liven up his AFC Championship game party for about 16 friends at his Pleasantville home last month, Tim Kelly busted out five growlers — sealed, half-gallon jugs that keep draft beer fresh — from the village’s Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.

Like other local breweries — including Defiant in Pearl River and Peekskill Brewery — Captain Lawrence’s primary distribution depends on growlers because of the expense and ordeal of bottling. But Kelly doesn’t mind the packaging, even though it might be unfamiliar to those who are acclimated to bottles, cans and bar tabs.

“The growlers are just sort of a fun thing, especially for local people, because the places are so close to our homes,” Kelly adds. “I love the beer, so it’s great supporting it, so close to home.”

Captain Lawrence growlers are $12.50 and $13.50 for purchase (depending on the brew), and $3 less to refill. Peekskill sells growlers for $6, and topping them off with one of its four house brews or 12 guest-drafts costs an additional $12 to $22. Defiant sells them for $4 and offers $7.50 refills.

While growlers aren’t always cheap, customers are still getting a great deal, according to Neill Acer, who opened Defiant in 2006.

“Just because people don’t have money, it doesn’t mean they’re looking for cheap stuff,” he adds. “What people are really looking for is value. … Growlers are a really good example of that. You can get a six-pack or a 12-pack of Budweiser for $5 or $6 at a convenience store, but the quality of product is just so inferior to the quality of product that we sell here.”

Scott Vaccaro, who opened Captain Lawrence in 2006, said his brewery would have shut down within two years if it weren’t for the glorified moonshine jugs.

“At this point, it’s a much smaller percentage of (revenue), but, still, it’s our front line — meeting the customer, saying hello, saying hello and shaking their hands.”

All three local breweries opened with the intention of shuttling out their beer in growlers, but sometimes that process can take months.

“When we first opened, we invited people to bring their own growlers in,” says Keith Berardi, owner of the Peekskill Brewery. “One of the beauties of growlers, really, is you get to see growlers … that they stored in their garage for decoration. Growlers kind of tell a story on their own; they all have their own unique style.”

Breweries continue to honor customer’s growlers from other companies.

“People bring us all different sizes,” Berardi says, “and the prices on those we kind of come by on the fly.”

Kelly, the party-thrower, says those who use growlers are a part of a niche community.

“When you go to get the growlers, you’ll see some odd-looking growlers on the bar,” he says. “There will be people who travel around to different parts of the country, to different microbreweries. And of course that leads to stimulating conversation.”

And then, of course, there’s the benefit to the beer itself.

Acer says growlers provide suds that are the “most fresh, most local that you can get.”

“When you buy a bottle of, say, Southampton beer, sure, it’s going to be pretty fresh, because it comes from Long Island,” he says. “But you don’t know how long that six-pack has been sitting on a shelf. Whereas, when you get one of our beers, or one of the other local beers that we provide, there’s a minimal amount of time (in between). And freshness matters.”

Vaccaro says growlers, when kept cold and sealed, can keep beer fresh for up to four weeks. Opened growlers work for another two or three days, he says.

Distributors also seem to be latching onto the growler craze, much to the delight of the local breweries.

“A lot of the larger outlets have really embraced the growler,” Vaccaro says. “They’re served in all the Whole Foods in New York City.”

Michael Sinatra, a Whole Foods spokesman, says the company does not yet have plans to distribute growlers in the White Plains branch, but may consider expanding in the near future.

“It’s a growing trend,” he adds.

In the meantime, Whole Foods in Tribeca, the Upper West Side and Bowery are among those to capitalize on a trend that also keeps the world a little greener.

“It’s a great way to recycle bottles, as opposed to constantly buying six-packs or cases of beer,” Sinatra says. “It’s an opportunity to refill one jug, over and over again.”

Growlers also raise awareness for local brews, he says.

“People will try maybe some different things that typically they wouldn’t buy,” he adds.

Open to the public only on Fridays and Saturdays, Captain Lawrence’s tasting room is busy most weekends and jam-packed the days before holidays and major sporting events — especially the Super Bowl. Kelly says even the experience of picking up growlers makes for a fun night.

“We can go down there, and for $9 or $10 we can refill our growlers, have a free sample or two with our friends, and it’s just sort of a fun social gathering,” he adds. “And you meet interesting people there, so that aspect also makes it a lot of fun.”

Vaccaro also sees the appeal.

“It’s a communal drinking vessel,” Vaccaro says. “The whole tasting room atmosphere is very social, obviously — coming to get the growler — but very few people will get the growler and kill the growler by themselves. Most people don’t crack open a bottle of wine and finish it themselves, so a growler is just another way of sharing beer with friends.”

If you go

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
Where: 99 Castleton St., Pleasantville
Hours: 4-7 p.m. Friday; noon-6 p.m. Saturday
For information: Call 914-741-2337 or visit www.captainlawrencebrewing.com

Defiant Brewing Company
Where: 6 E. Dexter Plaza, Pearl River
Hours: 2-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 2 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday; noon-8 p.m. Sunday
For information: Call 845-920-8602 or visit www.defiantbrewing.com

Peekskill Brewery
Where: 55 Hudson Ave., Peekskill
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-3 a.m., Friday and Saturday
For information: Call 914-734-2337 or visit www.thepeekskillbrewery.com

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

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