Growler grumblings

An attempt has been made to duplicate the experience of walking into a brewery and buying a growler– the nearly-two-litre, almost-always-brown glass jugs of beer – by liquor giant NB Liquor.

The pilot project to make growlers more available began this week, with sales beginning Thursday, Sept. 11 at 4 p.m. at the NB Liquor stores on Prospect Street in Fredericton, Regis Street in Dieppe and Kennebecasis Valley.

Each had three taps installed to fill growlers.Growlers

Fourth-year criminology major and beer enthusiast Jordie Shephard doesn’t like the idea. He thinks it is doomed to fail.

“The process of buying a growler is different than just going to the liquor store. The people who work at these breweries are really beer people, where at the store – not always. It’s an intimate process of getting these smaller companies’ beers.”

He said the local brewing success of Picaroons, who are involved with the project and have a tap reserved for their beer in Fredericton, were likely looking to expand their market, but could have gone about it in a much different way.

“Instead of putting (their resources) into NB Liquor, I feel they could sell it to more local businesses and promote it through more events like Brewer’s Bash and Follyfest and stuff like that,” Shephard said. “I fear that they’re going to focus way more on making NB Liquor happy instead of the public.”

Meanwhile brewers without the beer volume or distribution network to get involved in the project are on the outside looking in.

Chris Vair, general manager of Big Tide Brewing Company in Saint John, said while he will be happy to see more people with growlers in hand, NB Liquor’s idea that this will help expand market for craft beers and other small-time brewers is wrong.

“Some people were disappointed that it wasn’t – I’m not sure what the defining line is between craft beer and not-craft beer – but they were disappointed that it wasn’t craft beer,” he said. “Their point being that you can already buy most of the beers on tap in whatever size or quantity you want.”

NB Liquor spokesperson Marcelle Saulnier said the project aims to expand the crown corporation’s beer market, not only by bringing in a new format, but by bringing in beers that may not be traditionally sold in NB Liquor stores.

“We’re still not quite sure what to expect in terms of volume and et cetera goes,” Saulnier said in an interview Tuesday. “We are definitely interested in having some microbreweries and nanobreweries join the program, but I believe they’d also be like to be made more aware of exactly what they need to supply before they get on board.”

NB Liquor locations will have employees available to operate growler taps 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and all day Saturday.

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