Drink Responsibly! Could Hawthornes’ patent-pending growler system be the most sustainable way to quaff your brew?

Story by Julie Lorch | Photo by David Schrott

Fact: You want to be the dude who shows up to a house party with a delicious, fresh growler of beer. Why? A 64-ounce glass jug under your arm not only suggests that you are dedicated to the success of the evening, but also that you care about the way beer tastes. It says you’re generous, too; look at you bringing enough to share with your pals! It’s a good look all the way around.

But, as Chris Fetfatzes and Heather Anne­chiarico, owners of Hawthornes in Bella Vista, warn, if you didn’t buy your growler, like, that day, and you didn’t buy it from them, it’s going to be “flat,” “sick” and “beat.”  It’s definitely not going to win you any friends.

“Usually growlers are filled at taps with air and bacteria getting in, so it’s going flat from the moment it’s poured,” explains Annechiarico. She relates a tale of utter despair from a trip she and Chris took to California to purchase specialty beers. They sent the prized goods across the country in growlers.  Excited, they opened the jugs to a sad—nay, depressing—shadow of the former flavor profiles.
It was a wake-up call for a duo who strive to bring consumers, as they both say, mantra-like, “beer that’s exactly as intended by the brewer.”

“So,” says Fetfatzes, “we decided to build a system that would bottle growlers to keep the beer fresh for six months.”

It took them six years to develop the system, primarily through trial and error, from spare parts and hardware store standards. How does it work? Alas, that’s top secret—for now, at least. They don’t let anyone have a look; they’ve even kicked out patrons they’ve caught trying to sneak a peek. And with good reason—the system, which keeps darker beers fresh seven to nine months; pale, wheat and light beers up to four; and IPAs for one month—is currently on the way to receiving a patent.

Hawthornes’ masterminds are convinced that the growler is the most efficient and least wasteful way to consume beer. There’s no cardboard packaging, no wasted beer and no extra bags for transport. Cleaning products aren’t even necessary—just swish some hot water around the jug and let it air dry before the next fill.

For the uninitiated, the growler feedback loop begins with the purchase of a special Hawthornes custom double-paned UV-proof growler for $15 (if you bring your own bottle, you still have to buy their special cap for $1.50). With empty jug in hand, you choose from 12 to 16 beers on the growler list—which differs from their tap list—to fill ’er up. Starting with that first glorious fill, once you’ve filled up 20 times (and won acclaim at 20 house parties, and saved 20 cardboard six-packs), you receive one free fill of any beer on their list.

“Sometimes we have to open [the bottles] with a wrench,” says Annechiarico, who used to build potato guns as a kid. “There’s so much pressure in them that you can hear the seal crack.”

I ask them one more time about the technology involved—are they sure they don’t wish to elaborate?

Annechiarico and Fetfatzes look at each other: “Counter pressure filling,” followed quickly by, “and that’s all we’ll tell you.”

Hawthornes, 738 S. 11th St., 215-627-3012, hawthornecafe.com