Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Craft beer bellies are growling

Refillable glass jugs will be available at select liquor stores

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A new party trend could take off in Manitoba this fall: BYOG. or bring your own growler.

The Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation will be rolling out a pilot project at select stores this fall that will allow customers to bring in their own growlers -- or glass jugs -- to fill with draft beer, said MLLC director of communications Karen Hiebert.

On average, a growler holds 1.8 litres of beer, roughly the equivalent of a six-pack. The jugs are reusable, providing an eco-friendly alternative to beer cans or bottles. They also give breweries the chance to try making new brews minus all of the expensive packaging, said Lake of the Woods Brewing Company's president and CEO Taras Manzie.

"Being a new brewery, it's very hard for us to get into a canning or bottling plant," said Manzie of his company, which is just over a year old. "The most economic way to go is in Boston rounds and growlers." Boston rounds are like mini-growlers, containing only .94 litres or three standard beers.

Hiebert said the MLLC's growler strategy was spurred by the old adage of supply and demand.

"We know it's been popular with other customers in other jurisdictions, and it's something our customers have been tweeting us about in the last little while," she said.

Hiebert wouldn't reveal which craft breweries are being considered for the MLLC taps, but Manzie said Lake of the Woods has been in talks with the Manitoba Crown corporation since last year.

Lake of the Woods brewers have been selling growlers with great success in their retail store in Kenora since 2013. Manzie said in recent months, their growler resale numbers have almost caught up to their numbers of first-time sales.

"We charge $16 here for a growler full of beer and when they come back and refill it, it's $12," said Manzie. Those prices don't include tax.

"Part of (the appeal) is the romance of the bottle itself. It kind of looks like an old moonshine bottle and it's something that hasn't been seen for a very long time," Manzie said.

Half Pints Brewing Company in Winnipeg is also gearing up to serve growlers. Dave Rudge, brewmaster and president of Half Pints, said the MLLC's move to include growlers should help more craft breweries get their start in Manitoba.

"It's something that our brewery had been asking for for some time. This is very, very much a consumer-driven thing, consumers are asking for this style of serving," said Rudge.

"I think that generally the government is realizing that people who take the time to make their own breweries in Manitoba and brew their own beer in Manitoba are employing lots of people."

Craft beer enthusiast and co-host of a podcast called Pub Chat, Adrian Trimble, also thinks the MLLC's growler plan is long overdue.

"The MLLC is saying in a press release that this (move) is about helping small businesses and craft breweries, but if this was the fact it would have happened 10 years ago," said Trimble.

"The craft beer movement in the rest of North America is much more advanced than (in Manitoba)," Trimble said.

"That being said, I love beer and I would rather go to a brewery and fill up... there needs to be more accessibility."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 26, 2014 A18

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