Make Mine a Crowler

Image: Oskar Blues

Large cans are creating new market for beer

Customers who want their beer to go (and maybe even want to keep it for a while until they’re ready to drink it) are increasingly turning to the new product offered by bars and breweries: crowlers.

Like its glass cousin the growler, a crowler is a vessel for holding and transporting beer. This one isn’t glass, though: it’s aluminum and fully sealed (no light or oxygen), keeping beer fresh for up to a month. This, the non-breakability, the lighter weight than bottles, the recyclability and the size (32 oz.) mean crowlers are catching on.

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One place they’re having success is The Craft Bar in Destin, FL, which sells 25 to 50 of them a week, and has been doing so for two-and-a-half years. This is an additional $1,750 to $3,500 per week in income.

“On the beaches here you are allowed cans but no bottles, so selling the crowlers instead of glass growlers was a no-brainer,” says general manager Todd Schrag. “It works particularly well on weekends and some people will even take them to the movies or the beach or the boat.”

The Craft Bar – which is one of four of the chain’s locations – offers 30 craft beers and all of them (bar the occasional something that’s super rare) are available in a crowler. The cost is great for consumers too: Most clock in at around $7, which is the same price as a 16-oz. pint to drink at the bar. The great news for the bar is that labels can be custom-made for the cans, typically with a space left clear to write the name of the beer being canned.

The Craft Bar’s crowler machine is in its adjacent retail store, which offers wine and beer. If a customer wants to order a crowler, their server or bartender orders it through the store and delivers it to them directly. Other sales come from people browsing the store, Schrag says.

The crowlers sell mostly through simple word of mouth, though The Craft Bar does advertise them on the menu and through signage in the store.

Aluminum Oskar Blues crowler - Make Mine a Crowler
Attribution/Copyrights: Oskar Blues

The inventor of crowlers is said to be Oskar Blues, a brewery based in Longmont, CO. The brewery worked with Ball Corporation (of the recognizable glass jars) to create a crowler machine, which it now sells for $3,900 for the standard model.

The machines are a snap to use. An employee rinses out a fresh can then fills it with CO2 to remove any oxygen. Then, he or she fills the can with beer via a hose, forcing air out of the can as it fills. A seam then goes over the lid and the crowler’s sealed, all done in about a minute.

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