Before the recently resurrected Celis Brewery released bottles of its famous Celis White, one of the best ways to get our fill of it at home, as a draft-only beer, was through a growler: a 32 or 64 oz. glass, ceramic or stainless steel container just for beer. It was truly a treat to enjoy Austin’s oldest craft beer whenever I pleased.
That’s what a growler (and now the increasingly more popular aluminum crowler) makes possible — being able to have hard-to-get beers not just at the bars where they’re tapped.
In Austin, the magic of the reusable vessel has spread so much that there are now a few bars with a program specifically dedicated to the growler. (It’s worth noting, of course, that many local watering holes, even without the word ‘growler’ in their name, will fill a container for you with the beer of your choice.)
Below, we’ve rounded up a few places with some of the best growler programs in town — as well as some of the notable places where you can find a crowler, that trendy, recyclable alternative that many area brewpubs have turned to in lieu of regularly packaged products.
The Growler Room, 6800 Burnet Rd.
As the owner of Austin’s first growler filling station, Dean Schlett doesn’t just provide irresistible draft beer options at his bar and store. He also has a collection of custom growlers (as well as steins, pint glasses, pewter tankards and other drinkware items) that you can buy and fill all in one place. Want your name or business logo laser-etched onto a growler or any of the other containers? He can do that.
Regulars of the bar side of the business like to have a pint there because he’s the main person serving them, he said, a friendly face who can point them toward a new beer they should try before deciding to take it home in their growler.
“I'm fairly certain I'm the only place on this planet where you can get a beer, get a growler and get your name engraved on it under the same roof,” he said.
The beer list includes local favorites like Pinthouse Electric Jellyfish IPA, regional suds like 3 Nations Blood Orange Wit and national brews like Kona Big Wave Golden Ale. There are also ciders, mead, cold-brew coffee and nonalcoholic beverages from SoCo Ginger Beer. Not all of the beers are draft-only; Schlett’s main requirement is that he simply has to like them.
“The next evolution of this place is GrowlerSmith, which involves me forging and fabricating growlers,” he said. “Sometimes people come in and don’t realize I do custom work, so it’s a way to reinforce that.”
The Growler Bar, 1300 Farm to Market Road 682 #100, Pflugerville
Thanks to this place, you don’t have to drive into the city for a good beer. Father-and-son team Jeff and Jason Kemp opened their bar almost two years ago as a growler fill station with more than 50 beer, wine and cold-brew taps. The Growler Room’s beer list in particular emphasizes hyper-local options from Cedar Park, Pflugerville and other suburban areas north of Austin.
Growler USA, 609 W. 29th St.
This campus-area pub opened last year with 100 taps and the desire to cultivate more of a coffee shop vibe than a bar atmosphere. The Austin outpost of a growing national franchise, Growler USA also has a hearty menu of comfort food (get the tater tots with beer cheese, whatever you do) and — like Growler Room and the Growler Bar — a collection of branded growlers, including some with college logos (Texas A&M is represented, but OU still sucks).
The Growler Station at Central Market, 4521 West Gate Blvd.
We might as well take a growler of beer home with us alongside the week’s groceries. That’s the thinking behind the nearly one-year-old Growler Station at the South Austin location of Central Market. Since the store already offers a considerable supply of bottled and canned beer, the Growler Station only pours beers from its 20-tap draft wall that are produced in kegs only (like the Celis White before bottles came along).
The Draft Shack at Whole Foods Domain, 11920 Domain Dr.
Whole Foods has wholeheartedly embraced the idea of a grocery store as a place to hangout and has introduced bars within some of its locations, including the large Domain store that billed itself as particularly craft beer-friendly when it opened in 2014. There, the Draft Shack peddles oysters and about 40 beers that you can sip while you shop or get filled in a growler. Just want that growler filled? There’s a window into the bar where you can order it.
Oskar Blues has a couple of pretty cool distinctions to its name (not least the fact that the Colorado brewery chose Austin for its newest facility, of course). It was the first craft brewery in the country to embrace cans as a legitimate way to package beers, and it also invented crowlers, 32 oz. aluminum growlers that look like supersized cans.
The Austin location of Oskar Blues can’t sell crowlers because of Texas law, which doesn’t allow production breweries like Oskar Blues to sell beer to go. But there are other places in town to get ‘em, namely brewpubs that don’t otherwise package their beers.
Arguably the most notorious crowler-loving spot is Cuvee Coffee Bar, which added a crowler machine early on and ended up in a court battle with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission over its use. The TABC argued that the crowler was too similar to a can for a bar or restaurant to have, given that breweries alone produce cans of beer. Needless to say, the TABC lost, and Cuvee’s crowler machine has been restored.
Other places to get your crowler include Pinthouse Pizza — whose South Lamar Boulevard location sells copious amounts of Electric Jellyfish IPA to go — as well as the ABGB at 1305 W. Oltorf St. and Black Star Co-op at 7020 Easy Wind Dr. The aforementioned Growler Bar recently diversified and now has a crowler machine, too.