On Wednesday earlier this week, Augusta finally joined the ranks of more beer-centric locations in America by offering draft beer-to-go.
Sundrees Urban Market, located in downtown Augusta at 930 Broad Street, became the first location in Augusta to begin offering growler fills. For those who have never heard of growlers, they are usually half-gallon (64-ounce) glass jugs filled with draft beer for take-away consumption. The term “growler” likely dates back to 19th-century America, when beer would often be purchased for home consumption from a local brewer or brewster and carried home in a pail; as the beer sloshed around inside the pail, the escaping CO2, so it is claimed, made a growling sound.
Growler fills are especially appealing to beer lovers because they often mean take-away access to many special beers only available on draft, as well as a means to sample other beers in a different format than bottle or can, usually an experience in itself since each serving type can change a beer in subtle or sometimes drastic ways.
Locations in surrounding states as well as some breweries and brewpubs (including Aiken Brewing Company) have been offering growler fills for some time, but Georgia has been slow to join the trend, mainly because of vague open container laws. Things changed, though, when individuals in Athens pushed for local laws to allow the sale of growlers, and thus the first store of its kind in Georgia, The Beer Growler, was born. The Beer Growler focuses most of its sales on draft-to-go, offering some twenty rotating taps of specialty craft beer. Locations around the state are catching on, though, particularly in the Atlanta area and, now, in Augusta.
Sundrees is currently offering four beers at a time for growler fills. The first beers to make the rotation were Southern Tier’s Oak-Aged Unearthly IPA and Jah*va Imperial Coffee Stout, Flying Dog’s Tire Bite Golden Ale, and Wild Heaven’s Invocation. For those who already own one, clean growlers may be brought from home and filled (and sealed, to keep things legal), or may be purchased at the store, the containers themselves costing $7.99 for the standard screw-cap 64-ounce jug and $29.99 for the special decorative “Growler Club” growler which nets the drinker four additional ounces of beer with each fill. Fills themselves will vary in price depending on the beer; on Wednesday, growler fills of the two Southern Tier offerings as well as Tire Bite were selling for $16.99 (remember, price is only for the liquid, not the container) and Invocation for $24.99.
Mike Marty, Craft and Import Specialist at A-B Beverage and Augusta Homebrewers Association founder/president, was on-site with manager Claire Riche filling growlers on Wednesday, apparently with great success. Beer lovers in the area, it seems, are eager to sample the wares offered at Sundrees; many folks are likely already initiated thanks to Aiken Brewing Company (and yes, Aiken Brewing Company growlers are perfectly acceptable for filling at the store).
The beers offered on-tap at the store should change on a fairly regular basis, so it’s probably a good idea to keep up with Sundrees’ Facebook page to keep up-to-date on what’s pouring (and what isn’t pouring, as the store also offers package sales of a growing number of craft beer on top of the store’s selection of non-beery wares).
And don’t forget that, once a growler is filled, it’s best enjoyed within about two days to avoid losing flavor and subjecting the beer to the effects of oxidation, as the containers aren’t purged of the gas which is detrimental to the quality of the brew.
For more information, call Sundrees at 706-945-1310. The store is open 7 am – 7 pm Monday-Thursday, and 7 am – 10 pm Fridays and Saturdays.