Growlers: balancing two important values

When we started our brewery, almost no one in Japan knew what a growler was, never mind where to get one. A handful of places had picked up about them and there were one or two specialist shops, but that was about it.

Our taproom opened in 2015, and we had no bottles or cans to offer at that stage. Growlers would have been a perfect way to allow people to drink our beer at home. We had seen them a lot overseas, and were very aware of their benefits, so why didn’t we get round to offering them until Summer 2018!?

Within our 4 core values sit Craftsmanship and Ethical. Growlers seemed a great fit for the latter. Bottles and cans create a lot of waste. While both are largely recyclable, much energy is still consumed in doing so. Compared to this, washing and reusing a growler was a much more environmentally friendly way of consuming beer at home. On the flip side, however, many places were filling growlers from the tap. Gas issues while pouring can mean that the experience of the beer at home can result in a much flatter drink than the one enjoyed fresh from the tap at the brewery. Furthermore, a lot of oxygen gets mixed up in the beer when pouring that way, meaning it doesn’t last well, and quality can be compromised. This is even more the case if the customer doesn’t open the growler until a day or two later - hardly ideal for a beer crafted with love, sweat and tears. How can we say we put craftsmanship at our forefront and then say “that’ll do”?

We fought with this battle between two of our values for some time before eventually investing in a growler filler that fixed this problem, which was finally installed in 2018. The Pegas filler we installed allowed us to offer growlers pre-purged with CO2, meaning our kegged beer could be enjoyed as close to the same quality as drunk onsite as possible.

Not much later, we started selling bottles at our brewery, but the growler filler still got plenty of use, since bottles were limited to year-round beers, and growlers offered limited release products. Since we have been canning most of our products, however, the incentive to get a growler has somewhat diminished. They aren’t cheaper than buying in can, and cans are nice and light, in addition to allowing you to drink 350ml at a time, rather than having to commit yourself to a whole litre of one product.

While cans are great in many ways, we didn’t start doing it with the purpose of replacing our most environmentally friendly way of offering beer to drink at home. They were supposed to complement our options.

With the need to increase prices in general for kegged and canned beer recently, we have had to review our pricing in the taproom. We have decided to do the opposite with growler fills, however, and are lowering prices for products people wish to take away in this format. We might take a little bit of a hit financially, but full growler bottles will be the beers leaving our site that make us happiest!