On Monday August 24th, the LCBO sent an email to some of Ontario’s craft brewers to invite them to submit products for the launch of their growler fill program that will start with their flagship Summerhill location.
Ben’s Beer Blog has obtained a copy of the email and it includes some details about the program that until now have been something of a mystery.
The email reveals that the space will include the LCBO’s first growler station as well as a craft beer tasting bar. Furthermore they are actively seeking beer that they don’t already have available for sale in packaged format (so we won’t see the Bud Zone Growler Station as some beer nerd grumbling posited).
The LCBO has indicated that their staff will dispense beer directly from kegs into the growler; however, it did not reveal if they would be investing in a proper growler filler or merely filling them from a draught tap (presumably–and hopefully–it’s the former given their investment in this).
Customers will also have the option to buy prefilled, refrigerated growlers.
Interestingly, the LCBO will be selling branded growlers for customers to purchase, return, and exchange for refill and they will only be accepting and filling LCBO-branded growlers. I’m personally curious to see if they invest in a unique and interesting design for their growler. Here’s hoping they work with local artists or do at least something funkier than slapping an LCBO logo on a standard growler. The growlers will be tagged at the time of filling to indicate product, producer name, alcohol content, and fill date.
At this time, there is no formal product call or NISS product submission required and brewers are being asked to participate on an invitation-only basis. I don’t currently have a list of who has been invited–but I’m interested to see to whom they are reaching out. Given that the invite indicates brewers will need to use direct delivery (as opposed to suppliers that currently use the LCBO Warehouse), it’s probably safe to assume that the first wave of brewers participating in the growler program at Summerhill will be based in Toronto or fairly close to it.
There are still a few questions I have, namely: where is the information about storage and the necessary investment in infrastructure? A call for kegs for onsite growler fills means the Summerhill LCBO will need to build cold storage facilities.
Furthermore, if they are going to wash their own growlers, they’ll need space for a growler washer. Presumably, if this program is popular, it could see considerable turnover of growlers. That means they’ll need a fairly efficient (and presumably not small) growler washer.
Factor in the call for pre-filled, refrigerated growlers and this program seems likely to take up a lot of physical space. Where will cold keg storage, a growler washer, and fridges full of growlers fit in at the Summerhill LCBO? How big is this growler station?
Lastly, I assume the program is going to start small so that volumes of beer don’t languish, but there wasn’t much talk in the email invite about ensuring freshness–something that is key to the enjoyment of growlers. Hopefully the LCBO can establish a system to ensure product is either moving briskly or being taken off shelves (in the case of refrigerated, pre-filled growlers) after a best before date.
Some Additional Information that was provided to brewers:
- Product to be packaged in a standard size 50L or 58L Straight Standard Keg.
- Kegs used must be the generic Kegs used in TBS keg pools to fit standard industry taps.
- Kegs will be returned to Supplier. There is no deposit on the keg.
- Products currently available for sale in package format at the LCBO do not qualify for this program.
- Products can be seasonal, limited edition, or specially brewed for the program.
- Supplier to provide 3 draught handles to LCBO Summerhill for growler bar tap handles per listing.
So I guess so much for speculation about how, if, and when this program will launch. They are currently asking for beers that will be available in September and October so it seems like they’re all systems go and, a few unanswered questions aside, it seems to me like they’re approaching this in a pretty logical and interesting way. Could it be that LCBO growler fills will be represent actual progress in Ontario’s craft beer scene?
What do you think?