Craft and Growler, a new shop in Exposition Park that "soft opens" on Monday, takes us to the next step. This mom-and-pop specializes in "growlers," a fancy name for a ceramic or glass container used to transport beer from a tap to your home.
You buy the bottle for a one-time fee — anywhere from $8 up to $150 for hand-crafted jugs. You fill it with your beer, take it home and drink. Most growlers have a rubber seal, and the beer inside lasts for a few days. The growler is reusable; when you're ready for a refill, you take the growler with you and just pay for the beer.
The owners went on a bit of a growler bender, with more than two dozen options, from the basic glass bottle to $139 piece of hand-cast ceramic art.
Texas' liquor laws don't allow growlers at regular bars, but they can be sold by brewpubs or businesses with a beer/wine retailer's permit. Growlers first began to emerge in Dallas in mid-2011 at places such as Whole Foods Markets, Gordon Biersch and World Beer Company on Greenville Avenue.
All of those entities offer growlers as a kind of sideline. But at Craft and Growler, they are the primary focus. Owners Kevin Afghani and his wife, Cathrine Kinslow, are both lawyers and craft-beer fans who saw an unfilled niche.
"We were formerly investors in Deep Ellum Brewing Co., and I wanted to enjoy these local beers but none of them were in bottles yet," Afghani says. "There are times when you want to have a beer at home, but the only way you could have one is if you went to a bar. Growlers are the answer in terms of being able to transport beer from a bar and drink them at home."
They also appreciated the "green" aspect of growlers.
"One of the reasons we wanted a place that focuses on growlers rather than bottles is that we're both into being green, we're both religious recyclers, and with growlers, you're reusing that same bottle," Afghani says.
The store has all kinds of cool growler options, from the basic brown glass bottle to a Thermos-style aluminum can to a $139 piece of hand-cast ceramic art.
But you can also sit down for a beer at Craft and Growler. Half the room is a retail center, but the other half is a regular bar, with 30 taps, 24 of which will be devoted to Dallas and Texas beers.
"The way we're starting out, and this is subject to change, is with two taps from each North Texas brewery," Afghani says. "That came out to 16 or 17 taps. And then several from around Texas, such as St Arnold's from Houston and Ranger Creek from San Antonio. That brings it up to 24."
Their opening list includes Local Buzz and Red's Roja, by Four Corners; Peticolas Velvet Hammer and award-winning Royal Scandal; Koelsch and Sarah's Dark Side by Franconia; Blood and Honey Ale and Bock Ale from Fort Worth's Revolver Brewing; Elliott's Pale Ale and Scruffy's Smoked Alt by Cedar Creek; St. Arnold Christmas Ale; Ranger Creek Lucky Ol' Sun; Deep Ellum Brewing Co. IPA and Rocktoberfest; Lakewood Punkel and Temptress; Firewheel Midnight Ninja and Texas Pale; and Rahr Angry Goat. They're also doing dry cider by Leprechaun and Abita Root Beer.
Anything not from Texas will be "something special," he says.
"We're using the other taps to fill in where the local breweries leave a gap," he says. "A lot of people like Dogfish Head, and then we'll start out with a raspberry saison by Stevens Point and an imperial amber ale from Clownshoes."
The taps are unique, with retractable beer spigots and Blichmann beer guns, a favorite tool for home brewers that's making its first appearance in a commercial setting at C&G. Afghani, a patent lawyer, patented the tap system, which extracts air from the bottle as it fills it with beer, which he says makes the beer last longer in the bottle.
They nabbed a prime piece of real estate at the corner of Parry Avenue and Second Street, in what used to be Millenium, a long-time furniture resale shop. The decor is funky and rustic, with dark wood biergarten-style communal tables, keg bar stools and vintage-looking graphics.
"Supporting local beer is one of the main reasons we're doing this," Afghani says.