If you have walked into the Granville Island Brewing Taproom recently, you may have noticed a new addition to their shop which just so happens to feature new Crowler filling machine set up next to their growler station. One of the first (of three) Crowler filling breweries in Greater Vancouver, this new beer-to-go option has four taps available for fills, including at least two of their rotating small batch beers brewed on site at the Granville Island location. Excited about their new toy, I was given the opportunity to interview Mike Sharpham, Beer Merchant for Granville Island Brewing, about the new filler and a few other exciting things happening at the brewery.
Before we get started, I wanted to give a brief history of the Crowler itself, which has only been in market for a few years now. You see a Crowler is essentially a huge, single use, 32oz can that is hand filled and then sealed by a special machine. Like a growler, which allows you to fill a large vessel with draught beer and seal it from oxygen, a Crowler offers added protection from light, carbonation loss and glass breakage in a simple single use easy to recycle format. These large cans are not refillable like a traditional growler, so for your everyday beer needs it might make more sense to stick with a regular growler fill, however they are fantastic options in many situations which I’ll get into during the Q&A.
The Crowler can was co-developed by Oskar Blues and Ball Packaging (who owns the trademark to the name of the container called a CROWLERTM) and the machine used to seal it was originally an Oskar Blues exclusive, something which can now be purchased through a few companies in North America. For example, it appears that Granville Island uses one made by Dixie Canner Company for their fills as seen in this video below from their Facebook Page. They show one being sealed here, which really does provide a much better seal than a typical growler lid (especially a well-used one) and quite frankly, looks pretty awesome in action
Mike (also featured in the video) was happy to sit down with me just outside the tasting room (which was packed) and answer the following questions, of which I have taken notes and paraphrased his answers for you. The folks at Granville Island Brewing have reviewed these answers in advance of posting for accuracy.
Q – What made Granville Island Brewery decide to install a Crowler filling station at the brewery?
A – While we were making some on-site changes and increasing our tap lines for fills we thought, why not just go for it and add a Crowler filling station so people have another option to take home some of our unique small batch beers. We plan on always having our rotating small batch beers on at least two of the four taps at the fill station as well as some unique to the taproom releases from time to time.
Q – So how much is it to fill this 32 ounce can at the Brewery?
A – It costs $8.60 to get a fill of any beer we have on tap at growler/crowler station.
Me: Wow that’s a steal for 32 ounces of beer in Vancouver!
Q – What are the advantages of a Crowler fill over pre-packaged product sold in the same tasting room?
A – Well, honestly we think it’s kind of a cool format for purchasing draught beer-to-go. There’s a bit of a novelty aspect to it that will appeal to tourists, but it also allows us to feature small batch beers and unique beers for our local clients, who may be looking for some rotating variety and a unique way to take draught beer with them on their travels or activities.
Q – Does your Crowler station have a CO2 purging setup like a growler?
A – Not yet, but it’s coming. Currently we recommend enjoying the Crowler within a few days after filling. Our growler station is also operating and does have CO2 purging for longer storage needs.
Q – Will we be seeing pre-filled Crowlers on the shelves in liquor stores in the future?
A – No, our plans are to keep this as a brewery exclusive at this time.
Q – Ideally, in what situations would you prefer a Crowler over any other beer to go option like say a growler?
A – They are ideal for active sports like hiking, camping since they are light weight and easy to recycle. Since they won’t shatter like a glass container will, they are great for BBQ’s, picnic’s or any occasion where they need to be stored in a cooler with other items. Also, since they are so easily recyclable, you don’t need to keep track of it all day at a party and then take it home like you would a growler for instance, so there’s a convenience factor to it as well.
Me: I can recall at least a few growlers I’ve forgotten (at a cost of $5 each) and situations where I’ve grumbled about carrying them home with me on a long walk or transit ride. In fact I have like 20 of them at home, so the Crowler option really appeals to me when I ultimately forget to bring my growler or happen upon a brewery in my travels and want to bring some beer back on an airplane or road trip – something that seems to happen a lot.
Q – Any new gadgets or exciting news planned for the Granville Island Small Batch Brewery in the near future?
A – Beer wise we have a Gose, a SoCal Pale Ale and other exciting recipes in the works for our small batch beer program which has existed for quite some time now. Our West Coast Pale Ale is now year round offering, which is still brewed on site and also we are planning to pretty much double our Small Batch brewing capacity in the near future.
Me: Yes, I’ve certainly enjoyed some of the small batch releases over the years so I am excited to see the increase in capacity which should make them easier to get a hold of across BC.
Q – Locally, what else can we expect from this location?
A – Well we do a lot of business with tourists during the day (as previously mentioned, we sat outside the brewery tasting room because it was totally full), however at night we find that Granville Island calms down a bit so we are trying to do more events for the locals like hosting comedy nights and putting up live music acts in the evenings when it’s easier to find parking and the crowds thin a bit.
Now Granville Island was kind enough to let take two Crowlers home, both their Small Batch Kellerbier and Saison as well as a bonus bottle of their West Coast Pale Ale. I opened the Kellerbier that evening and enjoyed the heck out of it, noting that it was a very flavourful lager that was equally crushable and full of hay malt flavours. The Saison, which I opened about four days later, was also a very good example of the style and gave off some nice pepper, hay and cereal grain notes that I crave from that style. Even after four days its carbonation was still strong and appropriate for the style so even without the CO2 purge, I think these cans will last longer than they recommend. The Pale Ale bottle was more of an upgraded version of their larger production Pale Ale, with a good toffee malt backbone and some fruity hops mixed with hints of west coast pine. Equally pleasing to a beer geek, this would make a great into to small batch craft beer as well. Anyway, they’ve got lots going on there and if you haven’t visited the shop in a little while you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by some of the new things they have going on there, including their supersized can Crowler filling machine.