Longtime Duluth resident Greg Lindquist opened the Best of Brews, Gwinnett County’s first “draft beer to go” shop, on Main Street in Historic Downtown Duluth this fall. The shop sells 64 oz. and 32 oz. growlers of 29 domestic, imported and special brews on tap that beer connoisseurs can carry home to enjoy. An old-fashioned style root beer is also available.
Lindquist changes out about a third of the beer kegs a week to keep the selection interesting. The choices include pilsners, ales, lagers and seasonal beers from breweries throughout the United States and all over the world. He always keeps Budweiser Light in stock. “It’s the most popular draft beer in the U.S.,” Lindquist said. A list of beers is available on the shop’s website. Lindquist purchases his kegs from authorized wholesale distributors.
No sampling is allowed, but Lindquist has compiled books containing beer descriptions for customers. Also, by ascertaining customers’ normal preferences, Lindquist is skilled in helping them choose a beer they’ll like from his shop. He often suggests they get the smaller 32 oz. size to try a beer before purchasing the 64 oz. size.
Customers pay $6 for a 64 oz. (half gallon) glass growler container plus $9 to $16 for beer. A growler-sized koozie to keep the beer cold in transit sells for $8.
The screw caps on the growlers are heat sealed to comply with the prohibition against open containers. “It legally becomes a closed container,” Lindquist said. No consumption is allowed on the premises.
When customers return for refills, they exchange their used growler for another that has been sterilized. Lindquist then fills it with their favorite beer or a new variety to try. “The real fun of it is coming back and trying different beers,” he said.
A gift pack containing a 64 oz. growler bottle and four glasses with the Best of Brews logo is available for $25. The beer is extra. Glasses are sold separately for $5 each. A special 68 oz. growler with a decorative metal handle suitable for holiday gift giving costs $30.
The Best of Brews is located at 3999 Main Street in a historic building that formerly served as the Economy Pharmacy and the Bank of Duluth. Hours are Monday, noon-6 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, noon-7 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, noon-8 p.m. For information about current beers on tap, call 770-910-9101.
Growler shops are popular in the Northeast, the Midwest, and the West Coast, Lindquist said. North and South Carolina and Florida now have them, too, he said. In Georgia, there are eight growler shops including his Best of Brews in Duluth. There are three in Athens. Others are located in Decatur, Avondale Estates, Atlanta near Georgia Tech, and Marietta.
The growler got its name from the practice of customers carrying home fresh beer from pubs in galvanized pails with lids during the late 1800s and early 1900s. As the beer sloshed around in the pail and carbon dioxide escaped through the lid, a growling sound was produced. Children used to bring buckets of draft beer, known as “rushing the growler,” to workers at lunchtime or their parents at dinnertime.
Lindquist left a 35-year career as a traveling salesman to open the Best of Brews. “I’ve always been interested in different beers, especially craft beers,” he said. “As I traveled the country, I visited restaurants and brew pubs that sold growlers,” he said.
He also did a lot of business research before opening Best of Brews with his wife Betsy, who recently retired from Cisco, on Sept. 23, the day before Duluth Fall Festival weekend. “We don’t have anything to compare it with,” he said, “but we feel we’re at or beyond our expectation of sales.”