Duane Reade's Beer Growlers: Miracle or Satanic Manifestation?
Where am I? Blind Tiger? Rattle N Hum? D.b.a.? (Click on image to enlarge.)
It wasn't that long ago that if you wanted to get a six-pack (I'm talking beer, not abs) around Union Square, you had to make do with Bud Lite or Colt 45 in cans. Then the beer revolution occurred, and suddenly every bodega was selling Racer 5 in bottles and Sixpoint in tallboys. Now, beer is taking the next step. If you're like me, maybe you have some doubts. If great beer is available everywhere, where's the fun in it?
Duane Reade makes it seem so simple. And without the use of capital letters!
Not long ago growlers of beer -- poured from taps into recyclable brown bottles -- were pioneered in Brooklyn as one of the best ways to take home beer. Now that same method is available in a drugstore -- Union Square's humongous new Duane Reade. Since when have drugstores started selling beer? Since when they became the de facto grocery stores for much of Manhattan, vending sandwiches, sushi, dairy products, fresh fruit, and prepared salads to customers who really don't give a shit where they buy things.
[Update: According to @brewyorkny, growlers were first offered in the city at Heartland in the mid-1990's. Take that, Brooklyn!]
This development is a little shocking, and a little annoying, too -- after all, who wants to buy everything from soup to nuts in a giant apothecary? But maybe it's a little wonderful, as well. Just think of how easy it will be to take your growler across the street into the park, and pour the beer into little cups. At least for now, the cops won't know what the hell it is.
Here's the setup. But when I was there, no one seemed to be buying.
The menu's not exactly up to date, but it gives you an idea of the breadth of the offerings over time. (Click to enlarge.)
But what are you getting in your growler at Duane Reade? The list of brews is somewhat surprising, much more sophisticated than you'd expect -- including, in recent weeks, Sixpoint's Sweet Action and Bengali Tiger IPA, and Brooklyn Brewery's IPA; from Chicago, Goose Island's Honker's Ale (from a brewery whose products we see too rarely in the city); Ithaca Flower Power; from Maine, Peak Organic Fall Summit; and Saranac Pumpkin Ale.
There are ringers that appear among the taps, too. At the moment, the Anheuser-Busch parody of a wittbier called Shock Top is on tap, a beer that Jason Alstrom of Beer Advocate awarded a generous C, while noting, "Really not much to this beer, a shell of the style. Looks dirty but comes off too clean. I prefer my whites a bit dirty with some fruitiness and yeast flavors. Nothing of the sort here. A last resort beer if the rest to chose from is light lagers."
Still, are there any other places in the vicinity that offer growlers? Maybe we should be thanking Duane Reade.
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