In an era where the thirst for craft brews is growing by leaps and bounds, many retailers around the country are opting to take advantage of the trend. Taking note of the demand, many different sorts of stores, including gas stations, are starting to provide beer on tap. The option has already been allowed in 35 states and counting, with Florida, Missouri, and now, Iowa all considering it.
Upon installation of the beer taps, customers can have store clerks fill up a 64 ounce bottle, or “growler,” with which ever brew they choose. It has already proven to be a hit in various locations, with people noting the convenience of being able to drink as little or as much as they would like with one large bottle versus several smaller ones. Two other advantages provided by convenience stores and grocers offering beer on tap is that it allows the consumer to be able to try special craft brews without having to go to a bar, and the consumer can have the freedom to try something new without buying a six-pack of beer. One fuel and convenience store corporation, Sunoco, provides the option (which they have dubbed “Craft Beer Exchange”) in 65 of their store locations already, primarily in New York and South Carolina.
Alas, this new innovation is not without objection. Some brewers are not very eager about having their specialty beers easily available on tap at any gas station. Many wholesalers on the other hand believe that providing alcohol on tap within a store undermines long tested, tried and true methods of alcohol sale, production and distribution.
In Iowa, many brewpub owners also criticized the bill, particularly because they feel the laws would make it easier for a store to sell and manufacture craft beer than it would be for a brewpub, in addition to taking away some of their business. Many distribution companies expressed the same concern in regards to their businesses. Some guilds for brewers in California and Colorado expressed their opposition on the basis of sanitation, claiming that consumers may not clean their growlers properly before having them refilled, which could lead to a tainted product.
Retailers and consumers, on the other hand, sing a much different tune. The director of the National Brewer’s Association, Paul Gatza, said “The American public wants to be able to control their experience.” This definitely rings true seeing the sales numbers being reported by most stores which recently began offering beer on tap. Due to the now looser legal definition of what a “craft brewery” is, there was a 22 percent increase in craft beer sales in 2014.
As Iowa awaits the final say on the bill, many local retailers are already optimistic, with representatives from regional convenience store chain saying they would “definitely consider it,” if the bill gets passed. Some breweries also responded more positively, saying that they would like to have the option of making their product reach a new and potentially larger audience of consumers. Although it may seem odd and objectionable to some, the availability of tap beer at gas stations, grocers and whatnot has definitely found a niche of its own.
By Philip Cunningham
Photo by: Chris Lexow – Flickr License