SUWANEE -- The group of business partners who brought beer growler sales to Georgia will soon open a location in Suwanee. The franchisee, Curtis Stockwell, is a Suwanee native and North Gwinnett High graduate who is currently a manager at the Avondale Estates location. The first beer growler location in the state opened in Athens in December 2010.
The Suwanee location will be at 1039 Peachtree Industrial Blvd. near Moore Road. Stockwell said he expects to open later this month or in June, pending alcohol license approval by the city. Growler stores operate under the same alcohol license as package stores, Stockwell said.
The ownership group of Denny Young, Paul Saunders and Sean Galvin operate the stores, and plan to open other locations in Johns Creek, Alpharetta and Brookhaven. Young is credited with getting state officials to reinterpret the law, which triggered the Athens location opening.
The growler store sells 32-ounce and 64-ounce jugs (two pints and four pints) of craft beer that are refillable. The rotation of about 40 beers range in price from $4.99 to $26.99. The most expensive beer, imported from Belgium, is Saint Bernardus Abt 12. The cheapest is Sweetwater Road Trip ale. The initial bottle purchase is $3.99.
Stockwell said his customer base is people who want to enjoy beer at home on the weekends or for parties. They may be parents who would like to go to bars, but need to stay home with children.
For most growler stores, the business model is to attract a customer who enjoys a beer that may not be available in a restaurant or on a shelf at a package store.
Kegs typically travel from the brewery to the store in a month, Stockwell said.
"Our platform offers fresh, craft, draft beer to be brought home," Stockwell said. "The attraction of draft beer is it's not pasteurized. It's fresh because it's kegged. With a bottle, you run the risk of (it being) on the shelf for a long time."
The popularity of craft beer has risen in the last two years. The Brewers Association, which tracks the beer market, reported that craft beer produced 11.5 million barrels last year, an increase of 13.2 percent from 2010. Perhaps more telling, Anheuser-Busch's U.S. market share last year dropped the same amount as craft beer market share grew.
"More people are switching from Main Street beer to craft beer," Stockwell said.
Locally, other beer growler stores have opened recently in Duluth and Lawrenceville.
Given the heavy residential area of the Suwanee location, Stockwell said, "we felt like someone would put a craft beer store in there."
After he saw the popularity of the Suwanee Beer Fest in March, which was sponsored by The Beer Growler and had 5,000 people attend, Stockwell said the demand was there.
Though tastings at the store aren't allowed, Stockwell said employees have hands-on experience to suggest beers to a person's liking.
While the growler concept is popular in the north and west, Stockwell said, there's plenty of room to grow in the south.
"There's still a lot of people who don't know what it is," he said.