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growler station

This rendering shows the “Destination Craft Beer Zone” slated for the Summerhill store later this summer, which will feature LCBO’s first growler station.

Growlers Coming to Summerhill

Growlers are glass containers holding about two litres of freshly dispensed beer. They are taking off at brew pubs, breweries and retailers across the country, and will soon be for sale at Summerhill.

(May 2015) Toronto’s Summerhill store will be the first LCBO location to have a growler station, which will be the centerpiece of the store’s new “Destination Craft Beer Zone.”

The new beer zone was originally going to be built in the store’s current beer section, but when the adjacent Timothy’s coffee shop closed, the team was presented with an opportunity to do something unique in a new space.

Ontario craft beer will have the greatest presence in the zone, as half of the store’s craft beer sales comprise Ontario products and a strategic objective of the LCBO is to support local producers.

“There were a lot of reasons why this space would be a perfect area to showcase craft beer,” explains Heather Clark, director, Design & Construction. “First, there’s 1,150 square feet of space, and it’s unlikely any other store would present that large an opportunity. It also has a patio area that we can use for events featuring Ontario craft brewers. Third, there will be no disruption at all to customers during the construction period because it’s in a separate space.”

Heather also noted that the store’s existing beer section will continue to carry conventional beer, but all the craft beer will move to the new section, which is close to VINTAGES.    

“It makes a lot of sense to have the craft beer zone near VINTAGES,” says Leanne Rhee, category manager, Beer & Cider. “VINTAGES and craft beer customers are similar in that they are looking for a unique and engaging shopping experience. The craft beer assortment turns faster on a weekly basis, like VINTAGES, meaning both sets of customers are interested in the latest products to purchase.”

The jewel of the zone will be the growler station. Growlers are glass containers holding about two litres of freshly dispensed beer, and they are taking off at brew pubs, breweries and retailers across the country.

Growlers have either a screw-on cap or a hinged porcelain gasket cap, which can maintain freshness for a week or more. The term “growler” dates back to the 19th century, when fresh beer was transported from local pubs to households using a galvanized pail. It is claimed that the sound the carbon dioxide made when it escaped from the lid as the beer sloshed around sounded like a growl, hence the name growler.

There will be three taps for growlers to start, with room to expand depending on customer demand. The beers available to be purchased in growlers will also be available for sampling.

“The selection at the growler station will rotate frequently and will only feature beers that are not available in packaged goods,” Leanne says. “This is an excellent opportunity to offer one-off beers that local breweries produce for their own stores or licensees.” 

The zone will also have special fixtures to help differentiate the section from the rest of the store. Beer ambassadors will be on hand to provide customers with knowledgeable service and answer all their questions about craft beer. There will be several taps to allow customers to try before they buy, along with other educational opportunities.

The concept could be replicated in other stores where craft beer sales are strong, albeit on a smaller scale.

“A lot of this is new territory for us,” adds Heather. “But we are doing our research and getting advice from other jurisdictions, and we’re confident when all these elements are combined we will provide customers with a unique craft beer shopping experience.”

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