But savvy beer aficionados knew that a growler meant a quart or half gallon container filled with beer, ale or other types of brews from taps in retail stores for take-home enjoyment.
Today, growlers have entered the collective consciousness as the hottest beverage trend in Georgia. And north Fulton has become the epicenter.
A few weeks ago, Blind Murphy Craft Beer Market in Alpharetta was the first to open. Ten days ago, Ale Yeah! Craft Beer Market opened in Roswell. And two locations of The Beer Growler are in the process of setting up shop in Johns Creek and Alpharetta.
The mini-explosion of growler outlets may point to a pent-up demand.
“It's popular in other states and finally became legal here,” Roswell resident Joe Duffy said of the growler concept. “The advantage is being able to get tap beer at home as takeout in small quantities. A regular guy like me can drink tap beer at home in small quantities. I honestly think the novelty is why it's so successful.”
Paul Saunders, co-owner of The Beer Growler, offered a more technical reason.
“Growlers are becoming so popular because the beer is in draft form and that is how brewers want their beer to be tasted. The beer is kept cold from the brewery to your growler and not stored warm on a shelf or in a warehouse,” he said.
According to Saunders, the reason growlers are now available in Georgia is that he and his two partners had the state reinterpret some alcohol legislation and got growlers legalized in the state back in September 2010. The first location of The Beer Growler started business in Athens shortly thereafter. A second store is now in operation in Avondale.
Ale Yeah! opened its doors in Decatur in December 2010. Roswell was selected for the second store because “I love the feel of this city,” said principal owner Eddie Holley. “If we went to another north Fulton area I feel we would get lost in strip malls.”
Though many growler stores pride themselves on their vast number of brews on tap, Holley said he prefers to keep just 18 active taps to ensure optimum product freshness.
“Once you tap a keg, ideally you want to empty it in three weeks,” he said. With too many choices, odds are some kegs are going to empty more slowly than others.
Some of the selections on tap on a recent weekday Ale Yeah! Included Wild Heaven Invocation, a Belgian gold from a small Decatur brewery; Le Freak, a combination Belgian tripe and Imperial IPA from Green Flash Brewing in San Diego; and a chocolate porter from Red Hare Brewing in Marietta.
Self-described beer geeks will also be ecstatic to know that Ale Yeah also had Brett, an American “wild ale,” on draft. It’s a joint effort of two breweries that utilizes a wild yeast strain in the brewing process.
In addition what’s on draft, growler stores also carry a staggering array of artisan or small batch, hard-to-find brews in bottles.
Information: www.aleyeahbeer.com; www.blindmurphy.com; www.thebeergrowler.net.