Just before Super Bowl Sunday, the craft-beer wizards at Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park introduced a way for people to knock back ales and lagers: the crowler.
Nearly three times bigger than the humble aluminum beer can, crowlers are 32-ounce tallboys emblazoned with the brewery’s logo. Crowlers are similar to growlers, or reusable glass containers, which are filled with craft beer of the person’s choosing and taken home for drinking later.
At Funky Buddha (1201 NE 38th St.; 954-440-0046 or FunkyBuddhaBrewery.com) and beyond, more South Florida breweries are adding crowler machines to their taprooms as the oversize cans gain in popularity as easy take-home containers, says John Linn, the brewery’s marketing manager. Since the brewery rolled out a crowler machine in the taproom Feb. 3, nearly 100 drinkers have cracked one open.
“It’s like a 12-ounce can of beer you buy at the grocery store, only larger, and when you’re done with it, you can recycle it,” Linn says. “It makes everything easier.”
Here's how crowlers work: After a customer picks a beer from the brewery, a taproom employee takes a crowler, flushes out the oxygen inside with compressed carbon dioxide, and fills its from a draft tap. Then, the can is wedged inside a crowler machine — basically a 3-foot-tall, piston-powered can opener in reverse — which crimps on a pop-top lid and seals the beer inside.
Don't worry about racing to finish the craft beer before it spoils or goes flat. Because the cans are sealed tight at the brewery, the beer inside stays preserved longer, an incentive for drinkers who prefer to store brews for days or weeks, Linn says.
Besides Funky Buddha, a handful of breweries have added the tabletop machines to their taprooms: Due South Brewing Company (2900 High Ridge Road, No. 3, Boynton Beach; 561-463-2337 or DueSouthBrewing.com) and Copperpoint Brewing Company (151 Commerce Road, Boynton Beach; 561-508-7676 or CopperpointBrewingCompany.com), the Mendez Fuel gas station (701 NW 72nd Ave., Miami; 305-266-0033) and Civil Society Brewing Company (1200 Town Center Drive, No. 101, Jupiter; 561-855-6680 or CivilSocietyBrewing.com).
Due South Brewing was an early adopter of the crowler, installing their its tabletop machines in June 2014, brewery spokesman Doug Fairall says. The brewery bought the machine from Colorado’s Oskar Blues Brewery, which built the on-demand canning stations and began selling them to taprooms around the country.
“It’s a superior package for putting beer in, because it’s basically a tiny keg,” Fairall says. “No light can get in, and it’s got structural integrity. With glass growlers, the glass top is screwed on, and after a few days, the beer spoilage starts.”
Another advantage: Once the crowlers are empty, they can be discarded or recycled, as opposed to growlers, which must be washed and rinsed in order to get refilled at a brewery. Most breweries, such as Funky Buddha, add a $1 surcharge for a new crowler can, compared to $15 for a growler bottle. Due South charges nothing for the crowlers, Fairall says.
Ian Salzberg, a senior marketing manager at Brown Distributing Company in West Palm Beach, has been tracking the rise of crowler machines in South Florida breweries. Brown Distributing ships beer from local breweries to nearby liquor stores and bars.
“For any brewery that’s close to the [Atlantic] coast, if you have a crowler system, you’re going to sell a lot more beer out of your taproom to first-time visitors and tourists,” Salzberg says. “They probably won’t want to invest in a growler, but crowlers are fast and easy to transport.”
Since installing its crowler machine last July, Copperpoint Brewing Company has filled more than 100 tallboys per week. That’s slightly less popular than its growler stations, with which it packages nearly 150 jugs during the same period, Copperpoint’s sales director Jim Reidy says.
At Copperpoint, customers can fill a crowler with almost anything on the menu, save the brewery’s rarer, limited-release beers, Reidy says.
“It’s been great for us. It gives people another option if they’re new to the brewery scene,” Reidy says. “You take your crowler out to the boat or beach, and you don’t have to worry about breaking it.”
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