The Growler, one of Oxford’s newest establishments, is nestled in the walkway beside High Point Coffee, in the former Pink & Proper location. The Growler had their “soft opening” on September 5th, and what a transformation the space has undergone since the Pepto-pink days! Since I first walked into The Growler, I’ve described it as a “coffeehouse” atmosphere for brews.
Boasting 30 taps of craft beer, the crew feels a commitment to fill as many as possible with local products. Visit their Facebook page (facebook.com/oxfordgrowler) and click “Tap List” on the left-hand side to see at a glance what beers are currently being served (via DigitalPour), along with info about the beer. Both their Facebook and Twitter feeds update to let patrons know when they’re switching kegs (for example, “Diamond Bear Rocktoberfest is on, replacing SweetWater Blue”).
The Growler’s crew wants to know what you think and what you’d like to see on tap, if they can make it happen. The Magnolia State’s beer culture has grown since July 2012, when the state loosened the restrictions on ABV (percent alcohol by volume). Several breweries have opened throughout Mississippi, and people are learning more about their beer and its origins. It’s a ripe time for a place like The Growler to open up in a town where so many people love beer.
The Growler has a new menu that includes a “seasonal salad” and a vegetarian sandwich, which changes every Friday. The menu features fresh ingredients from The Farmers’ Market and bread from Honeybee Bakery. The hours have also changed slightly: The Growler will now open at 2 pm Monday through Thursday, 11 am Friday and Saturday, and noon on Sunday.
I met up with The Growler’s busy General Manager Krisi Allen the night before the official ribbon cutting, which took place Friday, October 17th. Allen started college at Ole Miss in 1994 and left after one semester to finish at Mississippi College in Jackson. She earned a degree in public relations, and worked in program coordination for a year. She ended up taking the LSAT, earning herself a full ride to Ole Miss Law School. After that she went to private practice in Jackson for about five years and then returned to Oxford to work for the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the following five years. Before becoming involved with The Growler, she was a bartender and manager at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Allen is excited about The Growler’s future, hoping to see live music soon—probably acoustic sets. There’s talk of a Cards Against Humanity night in the future, too—for now, you can borrow their decks and play at your own table. Read on to see what else is in store for one of Oxford’s favorite new watering holes.
Does proprietor Anthony Bond own the Memphis location of The Growler, too?
He is a 50/50 owner. He started in Chattanooga. He plays music on the side, just for fun, and met some people that were really into craft beer. He jumped on the idea and I’ve heard him say this a million times: “Real estate in Nashville is too damn expensive.” So he went to Chattanooga and opened his first trial run—really small, like a third of the size here. Then he went into a partnership with a friend of his in Memphis. Chattanooga opened August of last year, Memphis was in December, and so this is the third one in about a year.
Is the DigitalPour app something that was brought in from the other two stores?
Early in the process when we were talking about design concepts with our architect, I didn’t know DigitalPour existed. We knew the beers were going to be changing on a daily basis. So [Cory and] I suggested the idea of having a big computer screen, so when we updated the website, it would update on this board. We couldn’t make it work with the look we were going for at the time.
We came up with another plan; we were going to do flat, rectangle chalk boards, and they [would] each be hanging on their own hooks – thirty of them—so you could take it down and erase it without having to get up there and erase a chalkboard over the bar.
About 72 hours before we opened, I got a text message [about DigitalPour]. I was like, I love it, but there’s no way we can do that in 72 hours. I just didn’t think it could happen. They have the chalkboard kind of concept; the screen is a black, smoky, chalkboard-like screen, not just a pure black. I thought, this may work. We went and bought TVs, called the contractor to come drill the holes and wire it up for us, and 1 o’clock in the morning the before we opened, my owner was standing on a makeshift shelf, inputting beers. We had a few spelling errors our first few days, but that was a last-minute concept that has been one of the biggest features, really, of The Growler since we opened.
I love the organic idea of [the chalkboards], and honestly, we had a really hard time selling Chris [Kauerz, bartender] on the idea [of DigitalPour]. He was opposed; he said it wasn’t organic. I think after about a week, he [realized] this is kind of cool, it works, and it makes life a whole lot easier for us. Because when you have this many people in there and you blow a keg, you don’t have time to grab a chalkboard, go look up the ABV, write all the stuff on the chalkboard you need to have; all this is already in the system. A couple of the local companies weren’t in their system, but most of the beers were. So we didn’t have to input color, ABV, IBUs, all that stuff.
It is useful to see that info on the screen when you walk in and you’re trying to order a beer.
A lot of people don’t know. People will ask, ‘Why’s that glass empty?’ And I tell them, ‘It’s not empty, it’s a black beer—it’s a stout.’ I can tell people, ‘If you’re looking for something like that, that’s kind of a code to go by.’ It also answers a lot of the questions up front that people ask—‘What’s local?’ Well, you can look at the board and see what’s local, what’s from Mississippi.
Something we’d love to do—something we are still working on with the state and with regulatory people—is homebrew classes. Nathan, who is one of our bartenders, makes his own beer, and he knows a lot about it, [and] we would love to team up with some folks who are regulars about making beer. It’s still kind of a novelty in Oxford—craft beer, home brewing.
How did you get involved in all of this?
After [the U.S. Attorney’s office], Buffalo Wild Wings opened, and I decided to just go get a job out there and figure out what I want to do. I started bartending there, and I actually ended up moving into management part-time and bartending part-time. I heard about this guy opening up a craft beer bar, it was actually on Craiglist, and beer’s my thing. I can bartend, but I’d rather pour a beer than mix a drink. I really love beer, and it was just the perfect fit. I had been in management long enough to know what I was doing. It was great, because we started from the beginning, and I was involved with all of the work with the architect and the contractors. I was the on-the-ground person, because [Anthony] wasn’t here on a daily basis. So I just fell into a really good gig.
We have the glass growlers for $6, in clear and amber. And we have stainless steel, which is double-insulated, and it will keep your beer cold for like six hours after you leave—those are $40. They’re all 64 ounces. After that, you just pay the price of the beer. Growler prices are typically between $11 and $15. Every once in a while we’ll have a beer that’s a one-off or something that’s a little more expensive, like $17. But I think we’ve only had two of those since we opened.
Any tips on washing the growlers?
My glass ones, I just wash in mild dish soap. Run a lot of hot water through it. Sometimes the beer will have a real pungent smell, like the blueberry or Triple Haze, which is a raspberry beer. Actually, the instruction card on the metal growler says a vinegar and baking soda combination, to get some of the smell out. So if you go home with a chocolate porter and you want to come back and get an IPA, you don’t want it to taste like chocolate.
I want to go home with a chocolate porter! Your crowd loves beer—that’s for sure.
That’s all we do. I love beer, the owner loves beer. It’s a really ripe time in Oxford for craft beer, because these new companies coming into town, and the heightened ABV, etc.
I had a guy come in here and say, “My wife doesn’t like beer.” And I said, “She just hasn’t had the right one. There’s something for everyone.” I might try six little sippy cups before I get the right one, but I’m not going to stop until you find something that you like, usually.
This article was originally printed in The Local Voice #215 (published October 23, 2014),
To download the PDF of this issue, click here.