New Brunswick

Growler program 'here to stay,' NB Liquor announces

NB Liquor will continue with its growler program after selling 80,000 litres of craft beer since launching the program last September, the Crown corporation announced on Thursday.

NB Liquor says craft-beer enthusiasts have bought 80,000 litres of beer in growlers since September

NB Liquor will continue with its growler program after selling 80,000 litres of craft beer since launching the program last September, the Crown corporation announced on Thursday.

NB Liquor says its growler program has been a success and it will be expanded in the province. (CBC)
Brian Harriman, the president and chief executive officer of NB Liquor, said growler sales have been solid and that customer feedback has been "extremely positive."

"Since our program was launched the craft beer category has been continuously growing in both selection and sales in New Brunswick," said Harriman.

"We are pleased with the results of the growler program, which is here to stay. By offering this format and variety we hope to see further growth and innovation in this category."

NB Liquor says it has sold $435,000 worth of craft beer and $47,000 in growler bottles.

Craft beer continues to make up a small, but growing share of the corporation's beer market.

NB Liquor's sales figures show between Sept. 1, 2014 and Aug. 5, the corporation sold 1.2 million litres of craft beer, which comprised 3.14 per cent of the beer market.

Edmundston's Petit-Sault Breweries is one of the craft breweries that has been selling its beer in the growler program. (Les Brasseurs du Petit-Sault/Facebook)
That's an increase over December 2013 to November 2014, when craft beer sales represented 2.19 per cent of the beer market or the previous year when the sales represented 1.96 per cent.

NB Liquor announced last July that it would experiment with the idea of filling growlers at selected locations.

In September, the growler program started allowing customers to fill up a 1.89-litre jug of craft beer in in Fredericton, Dieppe and Quispamsis. The program was also expanded to Sackville.

Craft beer drinkers in other parts of the province will soon have a chance to grab their own growler and fill it up at local NB Liquor stores.

The Crown corporation will expand the program to additional communities.

Mark Barbour, an NB Liquor spokesperson, said the corporation is not ready to say how many more stores yet, or where they will be located.

Barbour said the new growler stations will be picked based on craft beer sales and available retail space.

When NB Liquor adds new stores or moves forward with renovations, he said the addition of a growler program can be discussed.

Local producers hopeful

Adam Clawson, the vice-president of the New Brunswick Craft Alcohol Producers Association, said he hopes the expansion of the growler program will allow more local brewers to take part in the initiative.

Adam Clawson, the vice-president of the New Brunswick Craft Alcohol Producers Association, said he hopes the expanded growler program will allow more access to craft alcohol products made in the province. (CBC)
"I know that there is a large amount of our members that would like to see this program delivered in the northern and central regions of New Brunswick and not just in southern New Brunswick as there is a large amount of people in those areas that would gain from having access close by instead of having to travel," Clawson said.

It isn't just geographic location of the growler stations that could help small brewers.

Clawson said the association would like to work with NB Liquor so that craft beer products are spread around the province.

"It would be our hope to work with them in terms of the delivery so people can experience a product that is not available in their location and that more taps are available for local craft beer and not just beer that is being imported by the corporation," Clawson said.

Growing pains for growlers

When the program first rolled out, NB Liquor intended to require beer drinkers to purchase one of the corporation's own $10 growlers. The Crown corporation dished out $124,210 to buy the 40,000 growler bottles in advance of the September rollout.

As of December, only 2,718 of the refillable beer bottles had been sold.

Barbour said the corporation has now gone through 4,686 growlers. There are 32,178 remaining.

"The purchase of the bottles — with the sales of bottles and the sales of beer — those bottles are paid for now," he said.

The growler program also ran into criticism from some New Brunswick producers in the first few months.

Edmundston's Les Brasseurs du Petit-Sault said they were having a difficult time getting access to the growler program in 2014. Fredericton cidery Red Rover Brewing has not been able to have access to the program at all.

Adding new products

NB Liquor still does not have immediate plans to add New Brunswick-made ciders into the growler program.

"ANBL had not ruled out cider altogether, however, sales and customers are telling us that the growler program is being very well received by craft beer drinkers and is helping bring new people into this segment," Barbour said.

The craft alcohol producers association is hoping NB Liquor will find ways to add new products to the growler taps.

Clawson, who is also the owner of Red Rover Brewery, which produces cider, said NB Liquor can look abroad to see how well consumers in other countries are enjoying craft products outside of the beer market.

"Across the world, both cider on tap and wine on tap have been growing massively," he said.

In order to do that, Clawson said NB Liquor might want to look at slightly changing the growler pricing system.

He said 1.89 litres of a cider or wine is a lot for some customers.

Instead, Clawson said NB Liquor could look at allowing smaller bottles and move to a pricing system based on the amount of product that was purchased.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story indicated 32,178 growlers had been sold. NB Liquor has 32,178 remaining in stock.
    Aug 06, 2015 2:00 PM AT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel McHardie

Digital senior producer

Daniel McHardie is the digital senior producer for CBC New Brunswick. He joined CBC.ca in 2008. He also co-hosts the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

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