Taproom Packaging: Pros and Cons

A brewery’s taproom culture revolves around its in-house draft, but patrons do also appreciate the ability to take some of those draft beers off premise and that’s when choosing the right off-premise packaging comes into play.

For the majority, the standard has been the growler. But more recently, crowlers have come into play.

Last fall, Tuckerman Brewing set up a crowler system in its tasting room.

Although it’s still a fairly new feature for to-go beer from the brewery, it seems to be increasing in popularity, said Aysia Morency, the Tasting Room Manager.

“We’ve certainly seen an increase in sales of crowlers, not only for their novelty — a lot of our patrons haven’t seen them before — but because sometimes people forget to bring back their growlers to be refilled, or they just don’t plan to return to the area but still want to take something to go,” she said. “I don’t foresee crowler sales completely phasing out the sale of growlers or bottled beer, as those sales are still alive and well. However, as a bartender, it’s really nice to have the different options for to-go beer sales and even just conversation.

“On a busy weekend day when the bar is full, the band is playing, and the tap room is standing room only, it’s fun to turn on the crowler machine. Once you flip that switch and the gears start going, it always attracts attention. Crowlers almost sell themselves in that way.”

Jamil Zainasheff at Heretic Brewing said his breweries sticks to growler sales.

“The reason is the larger the opening of the container, the worse the dissolved oxygen level,” he noted. “With the giant opening of the crowler, it is near impossible to get good package oxygen levels.”

Nantahala Brewing hasn’t done growlers for almost two years now reports Kate Dickey, the brewery’s Marketing & Social Media Director.

“The reason that we switched to solely six packs, 22 ounce bottles, cans, and four-packs comes down to one simple idea. Quality control,” she said. “We have a very large tourist base who would take growlers to wherever home was, forget it in their trunk for a week and then call us saying the beer has gone bad.

“We tried to combat this by filling and pressurizing growlers ourselves so that we could ensure that growlers would be good for 90 days. Still we received complaints, and we wanted for people to enjoy our beer at its best.”

So the brewery started bottling six-packs for distribution, and they figured they would switch all the way over to simply doing six packs for the flagships and 22 ounce bottles for special releases.

“They were cheaper as a whole for not only us, but the customer as well,” Dickey explained. “In six packs, you also get six more fluid ounces.”

Nantahala will still take their old growlers and take $3 off the customer’s tab.

“We understand that growlers are a part of the craft beer experience, but we want to move forward to ensure that everyone could have quality beer no matter if they are taking it five minutes away from the brewery or 15 hours,” Dickey said. “We are even moving away from 22 ounces and into specialty 12 ounce four-packs of bottles. This way we can distribute to more places rather than just specialty bottle shops. Also you get a bit more beer for the same price which is always our favorite part.”

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