Australian craft beer is a wild and seemingly impenetrable world of new styles and breweries. The recent surge of craft beer in cans has led to lower packaging and transportation costs, meaning better and more widely available beer at your local bottle shop, but some beer is so special, so small batch, or from such a young brewery that it might not make it to packages at all. From special keg-only releases to great prices on your favourite brews, we spoke to Elliot Moore of Mane Liqour about how growlers can open up a new and exciting side of craft beer.
Growlers, much like craft beer, can be daunting at first glance. They require an initial outlay for the purchase of the growler, the unit size is significantly larger than a standard bottle of beer, and the alcohol percentages and price points of many tap offerings can feel prohibitive. But it’s exactly the things which make growlers impractical for day-to-day drinking which make it exciting for special occasions. Many growler fills are of keg-only beers, which you may never get to try again, and make a great alternative to a bottle of wine at parties.
So What are Growlers?
Growlers are reusable beer bottles which can be brought to certain bottle shops and breweries to be topped up with draught beer. Most come in 2 litre sizes alongside 1 litre ‘Squealers’, and should be finished the night they are opened. How long a growler lasts in the fridge is dependent on where it’s being filled: Many bottle shops now purge their bottles with carbon dioxide, allowing the beer to last up to several months, however from breweries and bars which simply fill straight from their taps, the growler should be consumed within a few days.
Growlers at Mane Liqour
Mane Liquor were the first bottle shop to start a growler station in a retail space. Elliot recalls a trip to New Zealand for the Beervana beer festival as the genesis of Mane Liqour’s growler station back in 2011, when he and co-owner Josh saw local bottle shops filling up plastic bottles with beer off tap. "We asked why they did it and they said that a lot of smaller breweries were producing beer which was keg only. It made sense since it can get very expensive to package your smaller runs as a brewer. They wanted to do a different brew every couple of weeks, and keeping it in kegs is even more profitable.
“It really impressed us, we were trying to get into that game as well. We'd wanted more unique stuff in our shop and thought that would be a great way to do it. We went back to Perth, approached racing and gaming, because nobody was doing growlers back then, and explained the concept. Racing and Gaming said that as long as the department of health agrees, we’ll let you do it. Which surprised us. We were expecting it to be more difficult.”
Mane Liqour’s initial growler station filled 740ml plastic bottles, starting with two taps of Feral’s brewpub exclusives. “People seemed to love it. We quickly decided that we needed a more professional system, and upgraded to our current system.” Says Elliot.
Now, six years later, they run six taps and fill one and two litre glass bottles, which can be bought in store, or brought from other breweries throughout Australia and the world.
"The idea is to bring beer to people which is usually unavailable anywhere else. Blasta is a brand new brewery, when he hadn’t even finished his brewery yet and was making beer out in different people’s breweries while his came online, the only way to get his beer was to go to a few different pubs. Our system let people check out his beer, buy it, and take it home."
Filling your Growler
Elliot says one of the great advantages for Growlers is that you can try before you buy, which is especially helpful for esoteric beers and special releases which can become polarising or expensive. Knowing that you’re going to love a beer before committing to an unconventional sour, or a $40 per litre barleywine is a great way to open up craft beer and make new styles and breweries less daunting.
Mane Liqour list their current beers and prices on Facebook and Untappd. They also keep a consistent range of styles across their taps: "We’ve broken up our taps to different styles, tap 1 and 2 are more approachable, easy going styles. Things like Nail MVP, Northbridge Brewing Co., affordable, really easy drinking. 3 and 4 are usually a step up, more aggressive IPAs or really cool saisons and brown ales. Tap 5 is always sour, and tap 6 is always something big, a big barley wine, a huge stout or porter. We’re trying to give every drinker something to choose from."
Visit Mane Liquor at 237 Great Eastern Hwy, and check our their tap list on Facebook.