Sometimes a beer tastes so good on draft that you wish your sipping didn’t have to stop at the pub exit. Back at home, the bottled stuff somehow just doesn’t satisfy.
Hardcore Texas brewpub patrons have long quenched their thirst for freshly tapped take-home brews by purchasing capped, half-gallon jugs, known as growlers, and a new SA establishment makes the process all the easier.
Rob and Kylie Martindale dreamed up Big Hops Growler Station, which opened its doors in mid-March to immediate, steady business. Located on Broadway just inside Loop 410, Big Hops offers a wide variety of Texas microbrews and some out-of-state specialties.
The idea is to buy a growler ($6.99) and fill it with beer from one of 23 taps at Big Hops. You can also bring your own growler or other clean container with a tight lid. Prices for the contents range from approximately $12 to $18, which works out to $3 to $4.50 a pint.
The concept of the growler evolved from ye olde days of walking down to the local brewery and filling a bucket with beer for home consumption. “In the last six months, I’ve explained what a growler is hundreds of times,” Rob Martindale says.
While filling growlers with the house specialty at brewpubs is common, topping off with other commercially available draft beers has been fairly rare in Texas, short of buying an entire keg at a liquor store. Rob stumbled on a growler station just down the block from a microbrewery he visited in New York City. Once back at home in San Antonio, he started researching to see if it could be done here.
Regionally, Whip-In, a beer store/bar in south Austin, has been serving up jugs of fresh beer for several years and the new Whole Foods Market in north San Antonio fills growlers from a handful of ever-changing and eclectic taps.
So far, Big Hops customers have been going for truth in advertising; the Martindales report their most popular take-home styles are hop-happy IPAs. They blew through Independence Brewing Co.’s Austin-made IPAs Citrafication and Stash very quickly. Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch, 512 IPA from Austin, and local Branchline Brewing Co.’s Woodcutter Rye IPA flowed steadily during a recent visit.
Fans of less bitter brews can also find something to fill their jug. Big Hops carries stouts on tap, including two served with nitrogen gas for a creamy head and rich mouth-feel. Other recent taps included the Americano honey wheat and Scotch ale from New Braunfels’ Guadalupe Brewing Co. as well as Live Oak’s popular Pilz and Hefeweizen. Out-of-state options vary and appear well-chosen from craft brewery royalty like Left Hand, Lagunitas, and Stone.
Word of mouth and social media have lured local beer enthusiasts out to the station, but neighborhood folks frequently wander into Big Hops as well, curious to see a craft brew mecca in a location that generally lacks for such hop-heavy opportunities. The Martindales happily introduce newbies to beer appreciation and encourage sampling before going in for a full half-gallon.
Those who can’t commit to a growler can always grab a pint at the bar, as well as a glass of wine or cider. The welcoming atmosphere extends to the kiddos, who can get their sugar high from soda and root beer, microbrewed, of course.
Big Hops Growler Station