From Growlers to Crowlers

A lot has changed since our doors first opened on June 1, 2012. For those of you that were around back then, we launched with three beers on draft in a small Tasting Room manned by my father pouring free samples, and selling growler fills. It’s hard to believe not only how much the brewery has changed since that day but also the laws of the State of Pennsylvania. When we first applied for our TTB Brewery Notice in November of 2010, Pennsylvania law didn’t even allow off-premise sales of less than a case or keg. By the time we opened, Pennsylvania law changed in December of 2011 allowing us to sell any quantity we wanted for off-premise consumption, meaning single bottles, cans, six-packs, cases, growler fills…anything. Fast forward to today, and Pennsylvania breweries can sell any quantity we want for on and off-premise consumption in addition to Pennsylvania wines, mead, and cider on-premise in our Tap Room. To say the least, A LOT has changed, so much so that I’ve been rather fond lately of pointing out to people, when asked, how much different the brewery would be if we opened on June 1st, 2017 instead of June 1st, 2012.

We started filling growlers when we opened because packaged beer in bottles and cans wasn’t something we were planning for at launch. To say the least, we weren’t ready for the change in the law in December of 2011. So, we went the growler route to get our beer out to as many customers as possible without having to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a bottling or canning line when the doors opened.

From the beginning, I’ve never been a fan of growlers. As a Brewer, it kills me to see beer handled in a way that is the complete opposite of how we handle and package beer to keep it tasting as fresh as possible for as long as possible. Modern packaging lines like our double pre-evac Meheen bottling line (meaning the bottle is pressurized with CO2, purged, then pressurized with CO2 again before filling) are designed to eliminate as much detrimental oxygen from packaged beer as possible. Filling an ‘open’ growler is the complete opposite of that. Add in a few other factors like less than acceptable growler cleaning and sanitation from customers (you may think your growlers are clean, but let me tell you, they’re not), and excessive beer loss during filling, you can see the reasons just don’t add up when compared to buying a six-pack of cans or our 22 ounce bomber bottled beer that is packaged under far better conditions to maintain freshness.

At our new Borough Brewhouse location in Jenkintown, we opted to make draft ‘to go’ beer available in 32 ounce Crowler cans instead of 64-ounce growler fills for several reasons. In addition to those mentioned above, our draft lines in Jenkintown are too long to enable us to use draft taps that would allow us to attach a filling tube to reach the bottom of a growler for better fills.

As a compromise, we decided to purchase a Crowler canning machine to enable us to fill 32-ounce Crowler cans. This would ensure that each time we’re filling a sanitary, rinsed, aluminum can instead of a potentially questionable growler. We’d also be able to offer more of each release since we’re selling less liquid per fill, thus doubling the amount available to everyone. If we only have two sixtels available, instead of previously only being able to fill 10 growlers per sixtel, we can now fill 20 crowlers.

If you haven’t noticed, we haven’t sold any glass growler containers at our Croydon facility in about six months, and there’s a reason for this…

In about two weeks we’re expecting delivery of our second Crowler machine. Once it arrives in Croydon we’re going to change what’s available for growler fills at our Brewery Tap Room. We will continue to fill growlers of YEAR ROUND beers, and will make previously unavailable growler fill limited and seasonal beers available for crowler fills ONLY if production quantity permits. Our house rule for these crowler fills, which will be the same for our Croydon location as we’re currently operating under at our Jenkintown location, will be as follows:

– Any beer available in a packaged bottle or can form WILL NOT be available for crowler fills until all packaged bottles and cans have sold out AND

– We have more than 2 sixtels of that beer available for draft.

For certain, this isn’t going to make many people happy. That’s fine. We learned a long time it’s impossible to satisfy everyone, but in the long run, this is what we feel is best for not only our beer, but everyone’s beer. There will certainly be people that ask us questions like…

“Why does ‘X’ brewery fill growlers, but you don’t? If they do it, it can’t be that bad for your beer.”

“What am I supposed to do with my Neshaminy Creek branded growler now?”

“Why not purchase a counter pressure filling growler machine?”

All legitimate questions, and all with very simple answers:

First, just because other breweries do it doesn’t make it right or legitimize the practice. I sincerely believe those breweries would be hard pressed to disagree with us, but don’t want to make a change for whatever business reasons. That’s fine, but we see things differently and want to make this change now.

Second, if you’ve purchased a Neshaminy Creek branded growler in the past and now longer use it, or will no longer use it because of this change, by all means, bring it back to us and we’ll gladly refund you the $5 you paid for it. That simple. That’s how much we believe that this switch is what’s best for our beer.

Lastly, we did consider purchasing a counter pressure filling growler machine. They’re pretty cool, and exactly how we’d want our beer to filled in growlers, but ultimately we decided to go the 32-ounce crowler can route so we can offer more limited and seasonal beer available to more people as opposed to filling 64-ounce growlers.

We’ll be updating our draft menu availability for crowler fills in the coming days once our second machine arrives, but in the meantime, check out all the awesome beer now available for takeout at our Jenkintown location that previously wasn’t available outside the brewery.

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