By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Nicholas Hill just wanted his beer to taste good.
“I couldn’t find a growler available on the market that could keep your beer cold and fresh,” says Hill. “I found my growlers going flat faster than I could drink them, which was very frustrating.”
He began to wonder: What would it take to have a growler that kept beer cold, fresh and carbonated?
At the time, Hill and his father Timothy co-owned a water bottle company. That experience gave them an idea for a new type of growler, which was developed by founding Bend-based DrinkTanks in 2013. Now with two successful Kickstarter campaigns and four products, DrinkTanks has brought to fruition two insulated, stainless-steel growlers that can keep beverages hot for up to 12 hours, cold for up to 24 hours and fresh for up to a week.
DrinkTanks products are powder-coated, engraved, designed and assembled in Bend by a staff of 18 humans and one canine, Paisley, “The Shop Guardian.” Timothy Hill passed away in 2011, but Nicholas Hill knows “he’d be proud of what DrinkTanks is today.”
“We’re committed to supporting our local economy, and with the help of previous Kickstarter backers, we were able to create 10 new jobs in 2014,” says Hill. “Bringing most of our production work in-house, we are also able to ensure that our products adhere to the highest quality control standards. Our goal is to create a product worthy of your beer.”
The Growler That’s a Keg
Flagship BPA-free growlers are available in 64-ounce (classic) and 128-ounce (The Juggernaut) sizes. The double-walled, vacuum-insulated, dishwasher-safe growlers are secured by a leak-proof, dual-bail cap system, and are designed not to pick up or impart flavors from materials or from whatever was last in the growler. Keg Caps are the company’s secret weapon to keep beer fresh, carbonated and unspoiled by oxidation. “It can usually stretch out a growler for three to five days after it has been opened,” says Hill. “We’ve even had some of our customers write in to tell us it lasted seven days or more.”
New for 2016, Kegulator Auto-Regulating Keg Caps also turn any DrinkTanks Growler into “personal, portable kegs,” a feature that’s been enjoyed by early adopters in the homebrewing community for force-carbonating up to a gallon of homebrew. Kegulator caps are compatible with 16 gram and 74 gram CO2 cartridges, and an adjustable dial and pounds per square inch (PSI) gauge lets you control carbonation from 0-40 PSI. A purge valve keeps oxygen out, and a hose dispenses from the bottom of the growler.
While built primarily with craft beer in mind, DrinkTanks growlers can also carry hot drinks such as coffee, cocoa and tea, along with other chilled or cellar-temperature beverages such as wine, spirits, sodas and kombucha.
DrinkTanks are available in brushed stainless steel or 15 stock colors, with custom colors, laser engraving and screen printing also available.
Kickstarted Into Gear
DrinkTanks found social proof for its products and mission early on. On March 13, 2013, the company launched a campaign on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to raise capital for production of its classic 64-ounce growler. Seeking $30,000, the project closed on Apr. 15, 2013 with 1,959 backers pledging $236,772.
“Every Kickstarter campaign brings the challenge of bringing a new product or service to market,” says Hill. “I would guess most Kickstarter creators don’t take into account what happens in the aftermath. It’s often hard to tell whether you’ve created a company or a nightmare.”
The successful campaign did bring in more money — but it also brought in new challenges and higher expectations.
The aftermath of the first campaign saw the young company facing manufacturing and supply issues. “I made the decision right away that we wouldn’t compromise on the quality or integrity of our product, and because of that, we delivered late on the first Kickstarter campaign,” says Hill. “We did our best to keep our backers informed during this process by implementing a weekly update. I believe managing the supply chain is key. We have been very fortunate to have a team of talented individuals as well as a community that has been very supportive of what we’re doing.”
In 2015, DrinkTanks was ready to bring their 128-ounce Juggernaut to market, and they decided to turn to Kickstarter again. This time they sought $75,000, and launched the campaign on March 2. Three days later, they posted this:
“We’ve hit our funding goal on our third day of being live!”
By the time the campaign closed on April 9, 2,076 backers had pledged $304,142. Now DrinkTanks is fulfilling supporter orders as well as orders from the general public. Word is even actor Tom Hanks has one, and in 2015 DrinkTanks was also named the Official Beer Growler of Central Oregon Beer Week.
“The joy of being a Kickstarter-launched company,” says Hill, “is that it’s gained us a worldwide group of supporters who’ve helped get us where we are today.
To date, DrinkTanks has shipped more than 45,000 64-ounce growlers and more than 28,000 Keg Caps. Juggernauts began shipping in September. The Kegulator will be available to backers and the public in January, but other DrinkTanks products are in stock for the holidays.
In the Wild
DrinkTanks customers have run a wide gamut, says Hill, from the weekend beer drinkers taking beer to a friend’s house to watch the game, to homebrewers force-carbonating small batches of brew. “We’ve also heard really good feedback from people who like to take their beer into the outdoors,” says Hill.
“The homebrewing community is very passionate about beer and has supported us from day one,” he adds. “They tend to really zero in on the technology and quality of our products — not that the average consumer wouldn’t — but they tend to be first adopters of new craft beer technology.” Customers point to the guaranteed no-leak lid, a threshold of 70-pounds of pressure and a lifetime warranty on manufacturer defects as positives.
Hill also carries his favorite beers in DrinkTanks growlers. “This time of year you’ll usually find my growler filled with Snake Bite Porter from Silver Moon, Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery or Lights Out Stout from Worthy Brewing.”
Currently, DrinkTanks products are available to order from its website, on Amazon.com, in more than 250 growler refilling stations and breweries throughout the region and at more than 100 outdoor retail stores and websites nationally, such as Sportsman’s Warehouse and Backcountry.com.
For Hill, he is focused on continuing to grow the company and pursue the perfection of their perfect growler. “I love that my beer will stay fresh all week,” says Hill. “When I fill my growler on Monday and get caught up with work until Thursday, my beer is still fresh.”
[a] 1375 SW Commerce Ave. #160, Bend
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64 Taphouse & Growler Station owners Lorraine Lyons and Rod Steward are pictured behind the bar of their business, which opened in early May. Beer availability is displayed via DigitalPour technology and the taster trays are made from reclaimed wood, like much of the shop’s decor. Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Choose your pour ahead of time, or announce it to the world. 64 Taphouse & Growler Station in Hood River lets you anticipate and share what you’re drinking via social media.
Lorraine Lyons and Rod Steward opened 64 in early May at 110 Third St. in the heart of downtown. The new business is open 11:30 a.m. until a “to-be-determined” closing time, seven days a week.
Lyons and Steward installed a DigitalPour system, which registers and tracks each keg in real time, subtracts the number of ounces drawn with each sale, and once the given beer gets low, alerts both barkeep and customer.
“It shows what’s tapping and what is about to blow,” Steward said.
Customers can also log in via Twitter or smartphone apps such as Untappd, see what’s available and post photos and comments on pours enjoyed, which are visible on the digital tap board for all to see. The notification stays up for a day or so.
The technology is familiar at some Portland taprooms, but it’s a first for Hood River.
Steward said, “When I sell a beer in the register it will update it, and with our Monday-to-Friday 4-6 happy hour, it automatically adjusts all the prices.” He can also program it to let customers know what’s tapping in the days to come.
The 30 taps at 64 include a variety of Northwest ales, a nitro and a regular selection of four or more ciders. Enjoy a pint in or take it to go; growler fills are mostly in the $11-12 range, depending on the selection. Glass growlers, both 32- and 64-ounce containers, are available for $4 and $6, respectively. The business also sells other beer-related gear, including T-shirts and pint glasses.
64 is centrally situated among downtown breweries and taprooms, but it is the first full-scale growler station in this beer-centric burg. “We’re dedicated to the concept. You can come in and sit down at a table or pull up to a loading zone, stop, come in and get out,” Lyons said. Amenities include sidewalk, bar and mezzanine seating that is secluded while offering a top-down view of the store overlooking the massive cooler.
Lyons, an insurance consultant, and Steward, a drummer and former IT guy, bring their love of craft beer to the shop they hope will be “a comfortable community spot.” Li ve music is planned and snacks are available. However, take-in food from downtown restaurants and food trucks is encouraged.
64 Taphouse & Growler Station
[a] 110 3rd St., Hood River
By Erica Tiffany-Brown
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
As a server at a growler fill station, I thought I’d seen every type of growler: ceramic ones fancier than my serving dishes, collegiate ones that look like glow sticks, stainless ones that mimic kegs. One day, that all changed when a regular customer waltzed on in with a plastic — yep, plastic — growler.
Before you start thinking he tried to bring in an old gallon jug that once held 2 percent milk, I can assure you it was a genuine, 64-ounce amber-colored growler begging to be filled with delicious beer.
The particular growler in question came from Growler University in Eugene — the only place in Oregon I’ve seen that carries them so far — but I wouldn’t be surprised if they start popping up all over the state within the next few months.
What I am stunned by, however, is the fact that with about a dozen plastics manufacturers in Oregon, these PET growlers have yet to actually be made in the state, as far as I know. With Oregon having such a huge growler scene, I’m hoping this story will inspire a local plastics manufacturer to get busy so that us beer lovers can continue to support our local economy.
Plastic is cheaper. Growler University — which has been carrying these growlers since August 2014 — usually sells them for $5 each, but often runs promotions which allow them to be sold for only $1 a piece with a fill. Since Growler University’s standard glass growlers sell for $6 (with some fill stations or breweries charging more than that), plastic takes the award for most budget friendly.
A cool — literally — feature of some plastic growlers is the temporary “deformation” that occurs to make more room for pressure that builds up if the beer becomes too warm. Some manufacturers have created patented side gripper areas that will actually bulge out if the beer warms up to 50 degrees or more, letting you know it’s time to put the beer back in the fridge. The bottle will then return to its original shape when cooled back down again.
Plastic growlers can be taken anywhere glass is neither allowed nor desired: pools, rivers, beaches and parks, to name a few. Because, guess what? They don’t break when you drop them. I’ve had my fair share of customers, with an intense look of despair on their faces, hand over a dozen pieces of what used to be one glass growler after it fell out of the back of their truck on their way in to come get a refill.
With Oregon being such a “green” state, the mixed concerns about plastic’s effects on the environment or leaching chemicals are worth noting. I consider myself to be a bit of a tree hugger, so I’ve always been somewhat skeptical about plastic, but I’m pleased to note that if you choose a PET growler, it is not only BPA-free, but also fully recyclable. Additionally, plastic growlers weigh less than their glass counterparts, which can translate to fewer environmental impacts.
Plastic is more susceptible to scratches than glass. When it comes to bottling their latest homebrew, most brewers have no complaints about using plastic as long as it’s amber-colored and kept cool. However, when the plastic on the inside begins to get scratched or worn, that’s when dreaded bacteria can begin to thrive. It’s a big no-no for brewers and for you as a growler consumer; it will break down the quality of your beer and cause the container to hold on to flavors.
Plastic is not ideal for long-term storage because it is permeable to oxygen. If you’re planning on stashing that limited-release bourbon-barrel-aged stout in your fridge for longer than a week, a glass growler is going to be your best bet.
Conclusion & Tips
When I asked my customer about some common concerns beer drinkers seem to have about switching to plastic, I was only met with positive feedback. He said he wasn’t worried about any plastic taste passing on to his beer because, for some strange reason, the lovely liquid inside never seems to stay in the growler long enough for any “off” taste to transfer over.
My tips for plastic growler care are simple. Rinse them out with plain hot water and air-dry with the cap off, keep them out of direct sunlight, and don’t keep the same beer in there for more than a week. You can reuse plastic growlers just as you would a glass growler, but if it starts to get worn or scratched, don’t forget to recycle it. My final and most important tip for you: Enjoy what’s inside!
I’m not much of a betting woman, but if I were, I’d say plastic growlers are here to stay. I’ll admit: I was unsure at first about these new guys on the block. To be honest, they kind of reminded me of an industrial-sized cough syrup bottle or an iced tea jug. But, I’m really becoming a fan. From a server’s standpoint, they’re easier to handle, so I don’t have to worry about being klutzy. And from a consumer’s standpoint, as long as my pints of pumpkin peach ale still taste wonderful, that’s all I really care about at the end of the day.
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