Houston’s beer scene continues to grow and mature. Not a week goes by that isn’t marked by something new and interesting in the craft beer world and Houstonians are quickly becoming spoiled by the innovative products, the entertaining events, and the enthusiastic people who are working to transform Houston into one of the nation’s great beer cities.
A few years ago, finding great craft beer in Houston usually involved a quick trip to a local Specs or other beer retailer and scanning the shelves for just the right product. But times have changed and the way we purchase our beer is also about to change. A new business known as Growler’s Beer and Wine to Go is ready to open its doors to the public for the first time next week, bringing to Houston a new concept in carry out beer. Founded by entrepreneurs Doug “Growler” Bunze and Dirk “Growler” Heseman, Growler’s Beer and Wine to Go is one of only a handful of similar businesses in the United States and the first of its kind in the Houston area.
Get Your Draft Beer to Go
Take out beer isn’t an original idea. As most craft beer lovers are fully aware, Houston already has several businesses that sell growlers of beer for off- site consumption. Whole Foods is one place that comes immediately to mind and there are countless others. But Growler’s Beer and Wine to Go is different for several important reasons. First, it will be the only business in the area that focuses its sales on beer to go. Second, it will offer a large selection of draft beer products, easily eclipsing the number of taps at other establishments.
I had the opportunity to meet with Doug “Growler” Bunze on Tuesday, January 16, 2013 and talk a little about his business, the craft beer industry, and the Houston beer scene in general. Foremost on my mind was the overall nature of the business and Doug and Dirk’s motivation to open a growler business in Houston. Doug started by explaining the reason for the seemingly out-of-place apostrophe in the company name by offering this intriguing tale:
“Our great-great-great maternal grandfather, Otto Growler, was a beer-loving nymph from the small rural province of Abstinence, England. Feeling very restrained and suppressed in his hometown in the late 1800’s, Otto decided to pull up stakes in Abstinence and sail on to the Americas – land of the impure and well imbibed.
Being the entrepreneur (and beer-lover) that he was, Otto quickly established his new town’s first and only pub. And, after noticing that all the hard-working patrons needed a way to transport their beer home, Otto devised an ingenious bottle people started calling, Growlers.
In honor of our beloved, great-great-great grandfather, we are naming our new store, “Growler’s”. So let’s all raise a glass, mug, jug or growler of fresh craft beer in the spirit of good ol’ Otto Growler and his disdain of Abstinence”.
Beyond the naming of the business, Bunze also told me that his business partner Dirk is actually responsible for sparking his interest in selling growlers of beer. Bunze had previously worked in television production, but was growing tired of the profession and wanted something new and different. At one point, he considered opening a franchise sandwich shop but then Dirk told him about a growler store that just opened in Atlanta. A growler store selling beer and wine to go was a newer concept and it sounded much more exciting than sandwiches. After a little research, he and Dirk decided to open a growler store in Houston.
Setting up Shop
Why Houston, you ask? Well, Bunze told me that he originally considered opening the business in Florida, but he quickly learned that Florida laws do not allow selling packaged beer to go. In addition, Bunze lived in Houston in the past and enjoyed his time here. He also learned that the local craft beer crowd is an extremely passionate group of individuals and he wanted to be part of that passion. As Bunze puts it, “the only people who are as passionate about a product as beer geeks are about craft beer, are the people who stand in line for hours to buy products from Apple. What is cooler than being part of such a passionate community”? This is certainly true, and there are few craft beer communities as fast- growing, dedicated, and committed to the cause as those found here in the greater Houston area.
Shelves Stocked and Kegs Ready
What can craft beer lovers expect at Growler’s Beer and Wine to Go? Bunze expects to offer about 500 bottles of beer as well as about 25 to 30 different beers dispensed straight from the kegs into the glass growlers, which will be sold on site in assorted sizes ranging all the way up to a full gallon. At first, Bunze expects to have only a few beers available on tap, but in a matter of weeks the number is expected to increase and by the end of January/early February, there will likely be up to 30 different beers ready for tapping.
Growler’s Beer and Wine to Go will concentrate its efforts on local Houston beers and Texas beers, with the possibility of adding others depending on sales and customer interest. There will also be cider and wine and, once again, the emphasis will be on the Lone Star State and its many varied and amazing adult beverage products.
Events and Other Happenings
The main emphasis at Growler’s Beer and Wine to Go will be the actual growlers and bottles of beer, but the business plans to be much more than a one- stop shop for great draft brew. Bunze expects his business to offer beer tastings, bottle swaps, and other events related to craft beer, wine, and cider. And with the Fuel Kitchen and Health Bar located in the adjacent strip center space, there is a good chance that Growler’s Beer and Wine to Go will work with Fuel Kitchen’s chef to create some interesting and delicious food and wine/beer/ cider pairings.
As for the atmosphere, customers can expect something a little different from the typical retail outlet. Bunze is dedicated to promoting the local economy and with that business philosophy in mind, he plans to place a large television screen in the store and feature music from local bands and artwork from local artists. Beyond that, Bunze and Heseman plan to play their business by ear, listening closely to customers and incorporating some of their suggestions into the store.
How Much Longer?
Craft beer fans need to prepare quickly. If things go as planned, Growler’s Beer and Wine to Go will tap its first keg on Monday, January 21, 2013 at 10 a.m. There could be a few small issues that delay opening until later in the week, but the business will almost certainly be up and running before Friday, January 25, 2013. It is centrally located to most Houstonians at 1500 Waugh Dr., in the same strip center as Pei Wei restaurant and Fuel Kitchen, right across the street from Whole Foods.
Houston’s craft beer scene has come a long way in a relatively short time. Our fair city already has several craft breweries with more set to open before the year is through. The craft beer crowd is as passionate, motivated, and encouraged as ever and the enthusiasm continues to grow as more breweries and related businesses debut in the area.
Passion is certainly a motivator and when it comes to business, it may very well be the strongest motivator of all. Growler’s Beer and Wine to Go is a product of passion on multiple levels; a passionate desire to open a new business that hasn’t yet proven itself, but that appeals to the ever- passionate and dedicated craft beer community. As Doug Bunze puts it, a new venture is made all the more worthwhile and rewarding when fueled by an intense desire to do something you love. The obstacles will be many and the challenges may seem overwhelming, but the rewards will be worth it in the end.
Follow Growler’s Beer and Wine to Go on Facebook (search for Growlers Montrose) and check back here at Examiner.com for more updates as they become available.
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