About two years ago, recognizing the growth of craft beer in the area, owner Bob Slattery (who also co-owns nearby Fifty West Brewing Co.) transformed the Shell gas station on Church Street into The Growler Stop, replete with 22 taps—most flowing with local brews—and 64- and 32-ounce growler bottles.
Fill ‘Er Up
They fill growlers using the Pegas CrafTap system, a counter-pressure device that functions like a standard beer-bottling machine. The Pegas creates a vacuum in the growler, removing all oxygen from the filling process, and then blasts the bottle with carbon dioxide once it’s full. “Whenever beer comes into contact with oxygen, that’s bad,” says manager Dale Richter.
Most places fill growlers using a tube that runs to the bottom of the bottle. This helps to minimize foam (or “head”), but doesn’t eliminate the oxygen. With the Pegas, the standard 2 to 3 inches of foam filling the neck of the bottle creates a vapor lock for the beer below, ensuring that oxygen stays out.
The blast of CO2 helps preserve the beer. Unopened, a Pegas-filled growler stays fresh for up to 90 days, as opposed to only a couple of weeks for a tap-filled growler. “We had a growler that we filled and kind of forgot about,” says Richter. “We found it six months later, and when we opened it, it tasted just like day one.”
The switchboard is a series of nozzles connected to a corresponding keg—not unlike the taps nearby. The line on the front of the board runs from the selected nozzle to the Pegas, making it easy to switch between different beers, CO2 (for the carbon dioxide blast), and water (for cleaning the line). “You do pretty much the whole process right from the board,” says Richter. “It makes everything really simple.”
There are reasons you won’t see many Pegas systems around town—Richter knows of only three others: It’s expensive, costing anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000, and requires a decent amount of maintenance by someone familiar with the intricacies of the device. “It’s not the most durable system,” says Richter. “But as long as it’s taken care of, it works great.”