Growlers are the sustainable beer option that is saving the planet from cans and bottles by offering reusable bottles. Sustainability Hub sat down with co-founder Lachlan McLeod to learn more about the concept.
Norway has a long tradition of beer dating back around 1,000 years and until about 200 years ago, nearly every farm had a brew house. However, in the past four years, the microbrewery industry has grown exponentially. One of those breweries is "The Little Brother", started by Aussie-born Andrew and Cameron Manson. After a few years of micro-brewing and selling beer bottles, they and their Aussie friend Lachlan Macleod decided to start the Grünerløkka based Growleriet in June 2016, a craft beer store with a growler filling station.
Now you may be wondering, what is a beer growler? A beer growler is usually an empty glass vessel with an air-tight plug, that can be refilled and reused. As of May 2017, Growleriet has filled over 1700 growlers of beer. Growleriet has 10 taps, where they sell their "The Little Brother" brews and 6 other taps which they lease to microbreweries from Oslo, Kristiansand, Bergen, and Tromsø.
What inspired you to open Growleriet? And did you think of the sustainability aspect of growlers when opening the store?
We knew there was a gap in the market for growlers, with it being evident to us since the three of us have all been to enough cities around the world, where growlers are an established concept. We also saw it as a very sustainable alternative to drinking bottled beer. The concept was brand-new to Oslo, but we knew it would hit home because the city is becoming very environmentally minded. Instead of buying 6 small bottles, people can buy one big 2 liter bottle that is reusable. An added bonus is that growlers create a great talking point wherever you take it. Win-win!
How does The Little Brother Brewery ensure sustainability in the entire supply chain?
We try to be as sustainable as we can, where we can. For example, from the spent grain from brewing, we feed horses at a nearby local farm. But it comes down to everyone in the brewery, we try to keep our waste to a minimum where we can. In buying from suppliers, we look for people who are close to us, and we always try to package together the equipment that we need to try to get one less truck on the road.
What qualifications do you look for in microbrewers that you sell on tap? How do you ensure sustainability from your microbrewers?
Our number one priority is quality. We also look for cool flavored beers and work with breweries that we know.
What were Oslo-residents' initial reaction to growlers?
Oslo-residents' reactions were very positive. They liked the idea of a new concept and the growler is a new concept of sharing beer with one another. As mentioned, you can find it around the globe, so those people who have studied or lived abroad are familiar with the concept, and were glad to see it come to Oslo for the first time.
Growlers are really sustainable! Do customers ever remark on the sustainability of them?
Yes they do! The main comment that it is much better to buy one growler than to buy 6 smaller bottles.
Cans and bottles are recyclable, but growlers are reusable. How do customers clean out their growler before getting it refilled?
We tell our customers that to keep the bottle clean, it's as simple as filling it up with hot water from the sink-tap and leaving it to air-dry. Soap should not be used! When you want to use it again, give it another rinse and then bring it to us. We will sanitize the bottle first, and then fill it up with new beer. It’s very simple!
Tell us more about the growlers and kegs?
Our growlers are 2 liters, so you'll get 4 x 50cL bottles or 6 x 33cL bottles in one big one. Kegs are either 20 liters or 30 liters, so you'll get 10 or 15 growlers from each. Currently we have just 2 liter growlers which cost 100kr. We are looking at sourcing our growlers elsewhere, where we can buy 1 liter growlers. Doing this will reduce the price of the growler.
What do you think of stainless-steel growlers that are supposedly much more sustainable than glass.
Stainless steel growlers are great! Only a few people have brought this type of growler to our store. We actually have one ourselves. There is less chance of the growler breaking too, which is great for the customer. Plus, some of the growlers made with this material can keep the beer cold for 24 hours! Stainless-steel growlers come with a higher price tag, but they are probably worth it in the long run.