Jon Albrecht noticed a disturbing trend when Acme Fresh Markets starting offering draft beer at its grocery stores. Some customers would bring back their 64-ounce growlers for a refill, but they hadn’t finished all the beer from the previous batch. The reusable glass jugs proved too big for a few folks and some beer had to be dumped.
"We don’t want anybody to waste beer. That’s a sin," said Albrecht, the beer buyer for the Akron-based chain.
So Acme is joining a growing number of breweries and draft beer businesses in Ohio offering a smaller alternative.
Say hello to the "growlette" — or, if you prefer, the "howler."
It’s a jug that resembles a medicine bottle and holds 32 ounces, a more manageable and less costly investment for some beer drinkers. Acme, Buehler’s, Heinen’s, Market Garden Brewery, Homestead Beer Co. and Buckeye Lake Brewery are among the places selling them so far.
And Kaufman Container in Cleveland, which provides both 32- and 64-ounce growlers imprinted with company logos, expects the demand only to grow.
"They are a big hit," said Heidi Humble, an account manager for Kaufman.
She expects their popularity to climb even higher when the company starts marketing a growlette that looks exactly like a growler, only smaller.
For some people, the growlette offers plenty of benefits over a larger growler.
Cost is just one of those advantages. Craft beer isn’t cheap, with many high-alcohol and rare brews going for more than $20 for a 64-ounce growler.
The reusable growlette, obviously, is less expensive to fill. (Acme charges $2.99 for the bottle itself, while the beer is extra.)
"There’s a demand for these higher-end beers but we are sensitive to the fact that it can be a little bit more pricey," Albrecht said.
The smaller bottle provides craft beer drinkers an opportunity to sample a brew they’ve never had before without investing in 64 ounces they may not enjoy.
And sometimes it’s nice not to have 64 ounces of a high-alcohol beer, especially if you’re the only one drinking it. You do want to be able to stand up at the end of the night and wake up perky the next morning, right?
"We call them the one-nighter," said Rich Hennosy, owner of the Buckeye Lake Brewery in Buckeye Lake, Ohio. "It’s the perfect amount for one person for one night."
Then there’s the fact that draft beer doesn’t stay fresh forever.
You have to drink the growler the same day or soon after opening it because, just like soda, the longer it sits, the quicker the carbonated beverage will go flat.
That’s why Tom Aguero, 29, of Monroe, a writer with the blog Queen City Drinks (www.queencitydrinks.com) in Cincinnati, owns two 32-ounce growlers.
"I occasionally use the 32-ounce growlers for strong beers but usually they are for something I want to drink by myself over the weekend," he said. "The 64s are exclusively for parties or tastings as I don’t drink that much to finish them before the beer gets flat."
Homestead Beer brewer and co-owner Adam Rhodes thought the smaller version would be the best-seller for his production brewery, which opened earlier this year. Instead, they are both selling about the same.
He has found that the 32-ounce growler is more inviting to people who are just starting to explore craft beer.
"For me, it’s what I take home all the time," he said. "I almost never take home a 64 but I take home 32s all the time. It’s two perfect beers, which is what I want to have."
Homestead is now even exploring whether to offer a 16-ounce growler.
Buckeye Lake Brewery has taken the growlette even a step further.
In addition to selling a glass growlette, the brewery sells a plastic version dubbed "The Bullet" because of its longer shape.
The plastic growler can go where glass cannot: concerts, campgrounds and parks.
"We’ve had people say that would be great around the pool," Hennosy said. "That’s a use we weren’t even thinking about.
"They are selling really well."