It’s no secret that Bend, Oregon has an amazingly vibrant beer culture and is in the midst of amazing growth in the brewing industry, boasting one of the highest per-capita numbers of breweries in the country (12 in Bend alone, 19 for all of Central Oregon) as well as being home to the fifth-largest craft brewery in the U.S.—not to mention the quality and quantity of award-winning beers coming out of many of these breweries. Bend is where it’s at when it comes to craft beer; you knew that.
But what you may not know (because it doesn’t seem to have gotten too much coverage beyond the immediate community) is that Bend is ground zero for another beer trend that is, as far as I know, new and unique to Oregon and possibly the west coast: growler fill stations.
The premise is simple: beer to go. You take a growler to the growler fill station (or purchase a new one there), where they have X number of rotating taps of craft beer available, and will fill the growler for you. It’s not a brewery, it’s not a bar (although most of them will allow you to drink beer on premise, which blurs the lines), it is exactly what “growler fill station” implies. And right now in Bend it is the latest exploding trend.
It’s not a new concept, of course; the growler fill station concept originated back east, but until this past year it had never been exported to Oregon: the OLCC wouldn’t allow it. But then this past summer they relaxed the restriction and Bend became home to the first growler station in the state.
That one is called The Growler Guys, and it started in the Shell gas station on the east side of Bend (a mere two blocks from Worthy Brewing): yes, you can fill ‘er up while you fill ‘er up. I wrote a detailed blog post about them over on my Bend blog in November, and they are currently up to 34 taps and feature a wide variety of beers (and even sangria and ciders). So far they have been hugely successful with the concept.
Others have taken notice, and the second one (on the north side of Bend) opened up in December; and now, just in this past month, it really has exploded: I can point to
7 8(!) growler fill stations either open or soon-to-be-opened in Central Oregon (5 in Bend, 3 nearby). It’s a boom verging on a bubble I think—let’s face it, I can’t easily see how 7 businesses devoted to filling growlers can be all that sustainable when they are opening within a few months of each other—but it’s also yet another example of how vibrant and popular (and maybe even necessary) craft beer is to Bend.
Here’s the list of
7 8! growler fill locations, by my reckoning:
- The Growler Guys: East Hwy 20 and 27th, in the Shell gas station (the original), 34 taps (2 blocks from Worthy Brewing)
- Gorilla Growlers: North Empire, at the Empire Car Wash, 29 taps
- Growler Phil’s: Westside, on Galveston opening soon inside of Primal Cuts Meat Market (as reported by The Source Weekly), 30-34 taps planned (across the street from 10 Barrel’s brewpub)
- Tumalo Country Store: I don’t know how long they’ve been filling growlers—the Facebook page was just created this past Monday, but I saw someone else post about them before that—but they have 21 taps.
- Mountain Jug: Sunriver, opening sometime soon, a beer bottle shop and growler fill station, owned by Mark Cornett (husband of 10 Barrel brewer Tonya Cornett). Here’s the description: “Opening 2013 featuring private tastings with renowned brewers, assorted six packs, and a bad ass 1980’s sit down arcade game with 60 classics ready for some love.”
- High Desert Growler Room: Apparently inside of Ray’s Food Place on Century Drive; that picture was posted to Twitter by Cascade Lakes Brewing, “Growler Fill Station almost complete.” That Ray’s store formerly had a small liquor store space inside of it, which looks like it might now house the growler station.
- The Brew Shop: They actually have a 4-tap growler fill station in the main homebrew supply store part of the building (upstairs from the Platypus Pub). And they’ve had that available for about the same amount of time that The Growler Guys has been pouring beers.
- Cross Creek Cafe: They are a growler fill station as well, the first I’ve heard of for Redmond, though I don’t know if they have dedicated growler taps or fill from their existing taps of craft beer.
The prices for a fill are all reasonable, too—$9 on average, depending on the beer of course. (Considering most of the breweries generally start around $12 I believe.) And for the most part there are really good beers showing up at the fill stations as well (especially when I cast a cynical eye on the idea of getting beer to go at a gas station or car wash).
The several fill stations open now all seem to be doing well, though I don’t know how it will shake out when all 7 come online (or more—at this point I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new one announced). Although I suppose if there’s a market for this sort of thing anywhere, Bend is as good a place as any for it.