By the end of the summer, Winston-Salem will be home to the eighth Beer Growler store, a small chain based in Georgia with only one other North Carolina location.
The reason the business is coming here is simple: a few locals decided to bring it to town.
Laura Gillis, who is opening the store with her father and brother Sheldon and Daniel Smith said the idea began last Labor Day when a friend brought bottles from the Beer Growler’s Charlotte store and raved about the business’ set up. Sheldon, a homebrewer and big craft beer fan, approached his kids more seriously about the idea of opening one of the stores in Winston-Salem soon after, and the family started to flesh out the idea.
Last week, Smith signed the lease at 3420 Robinhood Road, near the intersection with North Peace Haven Road in western Winston-Salem. The Beer Growler will be just around the corner from where Smith and Gillis live, and Daniel isn’t far away in Ardmore. There is no exact opening date planned yet — there are some issues to sort out with the HVACs in the two adjoining spaces that the company will occupy, Gillis said — but the details are already in place.
The Beer Growler will be set up with tables and chairs for people who want to try a flight of some of the beers available, but it won’t function as a bar or even a bottle shop, Gillis said. Instead, all the attention will be on a huge wall of 48 taps, with an emphasis on North Carolina craft beers and brews that are difficult to find. Patrons will be able to bring their own growlers or buy 32 or 64-ounce bottles that the store will sanitize and refill.
The Beer Growler first opened in Athens, Ga. in 2010, expanding to six total stores in the state and one in Charlotte, founder Denny Young said. The expansion to Winston-Salem was driven by Sheldon Smith, Daniel Smith and Laura Gillis, but Young said North Carolina is much more favorable for the business than Georgia based on state laws.
“You guys have a ton more breweries brewing some really interesting beers, and the main difference is that breweries can distribute themselves when they are still small,” Young said. “In Georgia they have to go through a distributor. Your laws are so freakin’ friendly; I wish ours were too.”
Gillis said that while there are several bottle shops in the Triad, the Beer Growler will bring something new with its focus on growler fills and its extensive draft selection aimed at carry-out rather than pouring pints. With 48 taps, Gillis said they will be able to cover a wide swath of tastes, adding that the three of them each have different preferences but that there will be something for everyone.
“Winston’s a great beer town, being situated where it is,” she said, referencing Asheville, the Triangle and Charlotte as well as Winston-Salem’s three breweries. “This is a completely locally owned, family operated franchise. I am handling the behind-the-scenes, marketing and media, Daniel moved up from Atlanta to handle the day-to-day, and my dad is the owner. He really looks at this as a big adventure.”
For updates about the store and its opening, find the Beer Growler – Winston Salem on Facebook or @beergrowlerws on Instagram and Twitter.