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Growlers the Toast of Midtown

By Jill Colvin | July 18, 2011 6:35am
Growlers of beer, like the ones pictured above, are becoming increasingly popular throughout Manhattan.
Growlers of beer, like the ones pictured above, are becoming increasingly popular throughout Manhattan.
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MIDTOWN — Sitting at the end of a long, wooden bar under bare light bulbs hung from metal chains, Mike Dockhorn admires his selection. In front of him sits a flight of four golden brown ales from Mikkeller Danish brewery’s Single Hop Series.

“All are made with different types of hops so you’re tasting different flavors,” explains Dockhorn, 29, a beer-aficionado and amateur home brewer who lives in Manhattan and frequently stops by East 33rd Street’s Rattle-N-Hum after work in search of a new brew.

Dockhorn is one of a growing legion of craft beer-lovers fueling the latest trend to hit Midtown: draft beer to go. Once reserved for Brooklyn’s hipster set, growlers — typically half-gallon glass jugs filled on the spot with beers on tap — have arrived in Manhattan with a vengeance.

“It’s been the year of the growler,” said Brooklyn’s Chris O'Leary, who runs the "Brew York" blog dedicated to beer culture in the city. He said he’s been amazed by how quickly the trend has become mainstream.

The vessels are already available from a wide selection of ale houses and retailers including several Whole Food Markets, Chelsea Market's Filling Station and even the new Duane Reade at West 72nd and Broadway. And now purveyors are ready to make a splash in Midtown — a long-time “beer desert,” O'Leary said.

The first new entry to hit the scene will be Beer Table Pantry, a spin-off of Brooklyn’s successful Beer Table, which is set to open in Grand Central Terminal later this month. The store will feature six rotating draft beers for growler-filling as well as an extensive selection of bottles from around the world.

Owner Justin Philips said he's hoping to introduce growlers to Midtown’s commuter crowds after watching the trend take off over the past three years.

“It’s definitely becoming a really big thing,” he said, adding that, in addition to enjoying premium-quality beer on the train, he hopes commuters will begin purchasing growlers to bring home to the suburbs, where craft beers may be harder to find.

While retailers have typically passed over Midtown when it comes to beer innovation, “I feel like it makes a lot of sense for the commerce center,” he said.

Over at Rattle 'n' Hum, which has long filled growlers in its the bar, Patrick Donagher is also planning two new locations to tap into the trend.

RNH2Go, set to open in a yet-to-be-decided space in East Midtown by September, will feature 20 beers on tap for growler-filling as well as a whopping 500 bottles for sale. Donagher is also hoping to sell growlers of wine, and deliver growlers and bottles straight to peoples’ homes — the first such service in the city, he believes.

The store will also feature a small seating area for beer and wine tastings and food pairings, as well as classes on home brewing and ‘Beer 101,' he said.

A second new location, called BrewAuthorityNY, is also planned for West 40th Street and Eighth Avenue, near the Port Authority bus terminal, according to Rattle 'n' Hum's twitter feed, but Donagher declined to discuss details of the plans at this time.

Growlers are typically great value — usually $8 to $15 a fill —  making then a huge hit at dinners and house parties, where friends can share unfamiliar brews.

"It’s a really great vessel to explore craft beer. ... It just expands your horizons,” O'Leary said.

Dockhorn, who gravitates to local beers to minimize the environmental impact, said he’s experimented with growlers and likes that they’re so eco-friendly, but warns of drawbacks. Unlike bottles and cans, he said the beers only last four a couple of days and that the growlers are a challenge to clean.

But Queens resident Laura Carey, 25, who works in Midtown, said she's a big fan of the portable brew.

“It’s so cheap,” said Carey of the jugs, which she often uses as paperweights at home once they're done.