Draft beer to go: Growlers are a growing trend in Southern Nevada

Beer growlers are ready to be filled at the Brewery District inside Total Wine & More on North Stephanie St., Wednesday July 17, 2013.

Total Wine & More Beer Growlers

Melissa Long-Higgs, store manager for Total Wine & More on North Stephanie St., fills up a beer growler at their Brewery District inside their store, Wednesday July 17, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Aces and Ales

A fish eye lens view of the bar area at Ace and Ales, one of the few venues that sells growlers in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Goodbye, cans and bottles. Hello, growlers.

Oversized glass and ceramic beer jugs are becoming a more frequent sight at local barbecues, parties and dinner tables, and Southern Nevada retailers are getting in on the action. In recent months, several beer sellers have added taps to their stores specifically designed to fill growlers.

Total Wine & More's Henderson location added a growler-filling machine in late May. It has been very popular with customers, Beer Manager Melissa Long-Higgs said.

"We didn't put a lot of advertisements out, but there has been a lot of word of mouth," Long-Higgs said. "It's unique. It's fun. It's like taking a beer home from the bar, but it's fresh."

Growlers typically hold a half gallon, or 64 ounces, of beer - typically the craft variety - but they also frequently come in other sizes: 32 ounces, 1 liter, 2 liters and gallon.

Fans say they offer many benefits. Their screw-on or gasket caps can keep beer fresh for a week or more, and a properly sealed growler will hold carbonation indefinitely. They are easier to carry than a six pack or case, and they produce less waste because they are refillable. Most sellers cap the growlers with melted wax to prevent customers from breaking open-container laws while driving.

“Having 64 ounces of beers gives you the opportunity to share it amongst friends," said Kayla Callahan, a sales representative for the Joseph James Brewing Company. "If you want to take it to a party, you don't have to buy a whole case of beer. You just have to have one jug. It's very cost-effective."

Prices to fill a growler can range from $5 to $50, depending on the beer, Long-Higgs said.

Brewing companies also save money. Bottling beer is an expensive venture because of the costs of glass, labels, caps and boxes.

"Adding all that up and getting that shipped makes beer itself more expensive at the retail price," Callahan said.

The Whole Foods in Henderson added six beer taps in March.

Luis Tovar, founder of HookedOnHops.com, a website dedicated to beer in Las Vegas, hailed the change.

"It's a great idea," Tovar said. "People are already at the grocery store to buy groceries, so it's convenient."

The growing popularity of craft beer and home brewing has helped fuel the trend.

"A few years ago, besides brew pubs, there wasn't a single bar or store that did growler fills, and now we've got a couple of bars and a couple of stores that are doing it in town," Callahan said.

Tenaya Creek Brewery has offered growlers since opening in 1999. Head Brewer Anthony Gibson said the popularity of growlers benefits his business and other local breweries.

“It allows consumers the ability to try different beers from craft brewers, especially if they don't have the opportunity to visit the brewery directly,” Gibson said.

Growlers also provide a way for drinkers whose preferred beers are available only on tap to take their beverages to go.

"I really try to find something that is unique and not always available in bottles. The only way you can get a lot of them is through the growler system," said Long-Higgs, who has offered growler service for seasonal craft beers, such as Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock.

Khoury's Fine Wine & Spirits Owner Issa Khoury, who has sold growlers for more than a year, said tap beer can help casual drinkers transition from domestic beers to craft brews.

"It's causing people who have never paid attention to craft beer to get into it and exposing them to a whole new world, which is encouraging breweries to be even more creative," Khoury said.

Khoury's growler system includes draft lines so customers can sample beers before committing to buy growler-sized portions.

Alan McCormick, a Montana lawyer who administers the craft beer blog Growler Fills, said he has seen a huge improvement in Las Vegas' craft beer scene in recent years.

"The craft beer scene has improved dramatically in a very short time, similar to many areas in the country, " McCormick said. "The Las Vegas Strip, in particular, has long been considered a wasteland for good beer. When I visited in October 2011, that was notably changing."

During a visit in February, McCormick said he noticed many new locations for craft beer lovers.

"It is a trend that is sure to continue," he said.

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