Growlers grow in Chattanooga

Growlers grow in Chattanooga

July 4th, 2013 by Shelly Bradbury in Business Around the Region

Owner Joe Winland works Tuesday in Heaven & Ale on Cherokee Boulevard. He will be opening the growler shop next week.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

NEW GROWLER SHOPS

* The Growler, 1101 Hixson Pike, opening early August; Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday - Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Noon to 9 p.m. Sunday

* Heaven and Ale, 304 Cherokee Blvd., opening early July; Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday - Saturday, Noon to 6 p.m. Sunday

* Sturm Haus, 1120 Houston Street, opened February 2013; Hours: 1 to 10 p.m. Monday - Thursday, 1 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday

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Two new growler beer shops are slated to open in Chattanooga this summer as a national trend toward the craft-beer-to-go business model finally sinks its teeth into the Scenic City.

Both of the new ventures -- Heaven and Ale on Cherokee Boulevard and The Growler on Hixson Pike -- will focus solely on beer, selling growlers: dark-colored glass bottles filled with craft beer, sealed and sent home with the customer.

Growlers aren't new to the Chattanooga market -- places like Big River have been selling them for years. But the city, and much of the nation, is seeing a surge in standalone retail beer shops. They're not exactly bars, but they're not exactly traditional retail stores, either.

"Think Starbucks, with craft beer," said Anthony Bond, owner of The Growler. "You can drink it on premise, you can take it off-premise, you can buy it to go -- but the point is these places don't sell cigarettes or lottery tickets or newspapers."

Both The Growler and Heaven and Ale will offer beer tasting, have limited seating and are focusing on the sophisticated craft beer drinker.

"We're trying to recreate the wine tasting experience in the world of craft beer," Heaven and Ale owner Joe Winland said.

He moved his family from Decatur, Ga., to open his shop on the North Shore, and said he expects the growler market to grow dramatically in Chattanooga.

"Where I lived, I had seen at least five growler retail stores pop up within a five-mile radius of my home," he said. "We've seen the growler retail store boom where we live, and we anticipate it really growing in Chattanooga because there is such a huge craft beer scene here."

Heaven and Ale will offer 24 rotating beers on tap, but won't sell canned or bottled beer. They will sell flights, which are sets of four 4-ounce tastes of beer, as well as giving out free samples. There will be tables and chairs for customers to sit and drink, he added. Heaven and Ale start with two part-time employees.

A few miles away at The Growler, owner Anthony Bond will also keep 24 beers on tap, and he'll sell six packs to go. The 500-square-foot store will include a few bar stools for seating. Bond, a Nashville native, is also opening a growler shop in Memphis this September.

"Nashville has seen four or five of these growler stores open in the last year," he said. "It's really a growth industry. [Growlers are] not a brand-new, unique business by any means, but putting them in a standalone location and focusing solely on that is growing in a lot of major metropolitan areas."

He's put about $100,000 into The Growler in Chattanooga and will start with one employee. He added that he expects the Hixson Pike neighborhood to be a good place to grow the business.

"The demographics are very much what I'm looking for, especially in that part of town," he said. "I'm looking for the 21- to 40-year-old demographic that's got a good mix of commercial, locally-owned businesses together with a high number of residents within a walking distance."

Chattanooga's first standalone growler shop, Sturm Haus Beer Market, opened in February, and bartender Cody Howell said growler sales are on the rise.

"When we first started, we were doing maybe three or four growlers a day, but we've been picking up a lot on growlers lately," he said. "We've been going through 10 to 15 growlers a day."

Both Winland and Bond said they're not worried about the competing shops.

"It's a statement about the growth in the market," Bond said. "I think anything that fosters the craft beer industry is positive and I don't think the market is saturated. A lot of these establishments will have a very localized clientele. I don't think you'll go more than three or four miles for one of these."

And both owners are switching from other careers to open the growler shops. Winland said he's excited to join the North Shore's small business community.

"I've been drinking growler beer almost exclusively for the last four or five years," he said. "I have the wonderful privilege of opening a business with something I'm truly passionate about."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at sbradbury@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6525.