Growler USA CEO Dan White says two of the best things to happen for beer drinkers in America are the surge in beer entrepreneurship — which has seen the total number of craft breweries top 4,000 this year — and the launch of his national chain of tap rooms. That's because every Growler USA franchise that opens, from Boston to Honolulu, sources its beers first from local breweries before looking further afield. And since each location will pour eighty or more beers, the company can tap into a pretty hefty portion of the beers produced by those 4,000 craft breweries.
White opened the first Growler USA in Eugene, Oregon, in 2014; all other locations are franchised, including a new tap room in Charlotte, North Carolina, and twelve other locations set to open in the coming months across the country. The Denver area is slated to get two franchises: one in Centennial that will open before year-end, and another in Longmont scheduled for 2016.
White is a big fan of Colorado, having operated another company out of Centennial before entering into the hospitality industry. When putting together a corporate team for Growler USA, he looked to former colleagues and employees. "We actually have our world headquarters in Centennial off of Arapahoe Road," he says. "We kind of put the band back together, so to speak."
The name itself implies that customers will be able to take beer to go — and that's the case at the original location, where Oregon law allows bars and other establishments to fill growlers for off-premise consumption. Here in Colorado, only the brewery that produces the beer can sell growlers filled from kegs, but that could change. "We hope to influence the legislature here about that," White explains.
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White is building his company around the motto "True to the Brew." Growler USA's primary focus is on serving American craft beer (meaning no imports or macrobrew), but a range of tap handles will also be reserved for small-batch wine, cider, mead, root beer, kombucha and cold-press coffee. Beers will rotate frequently to allow for new, seasonal and special-release kegs.
White says the Centennial franchise will "offer 80 taps of beer — realistically 75 of those 80 will be from the local market." Beer inventory is tracked through TapHunter, which will allow customers to always know what's new on tap through the Growler USA website or the TapHunter mobile app."We'll have tap takeovers every week with at least one person from the brewery meeting and greeting customers," he adds.
In addition to beer, Growler USA offers a menu designed to be paired with beer, and often even prepared with beer as an ingredient. The culinary program, overseen by executive chef Garey Hiles, allows franchises flexibility in offering local and seasonal dishes. "Our food is prepared from a recipe book," says White. "The franchisee will be able to select from that recipe book. The menu is truly designed to have something for everyone. It's not five-star, white tablecloth, but it's certainly not something you'll find in run-of-the-mill places, either."
"I see the craft-beer world as young entrepreneurs and it's our job to support them," White says. And he's running his company with that entrepreneurial spirit, noting that he plans to open as many as ten more Growler USA franchises in Colorado alone in the next couple of years. With a goal of putting Growler USA in all fifty states, he's certainly taking small, local breweries, to a big, national market.