At 11 a.m. Thursday, Rubicon Brewing made a bit of local beer history. Owner Glynn Phillips and his staff at the pub at 2004 Capitol Ave. in Sacramento began selling growlers — those extra-large to-go containers that have become a popular and lucrative part of the craft beer industry.
For several years, as countless start-up breweries sold and filled growlers, often 64-ounce or 32-ounce glass jugs, Rubicon looked on from the sidelines, prohibited from joining the revolution.
Founded in 1987, the brewpub’s license had been saddled with restrictions regarding the kinds of containers it could sell. That included growlers and the ongoing ban on single-beer sales in the midtown/downtown grid.
“I had to go through a long process with the city, the local police, planning and the ABC (California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control),” said Phillips, who purchased Rubicon in 2005 and inherited the restrictions.
“We’re the oldest (active) brewery in Sacramento. The conditions that were put on our license were from almost 30 years ago. Times have really changed since then. It was really giving a lot of my competitors an unfair advantage in the way they were able to sell beer. It’s a big thing for the Rubicon.”
On Thursday, longtime local beer advocate and Sacramento Beer Week founder Dan Scott became the first growler customer. Generally, the growlers cost $5 for the container and fills cost about $15, depending on the beer.
“The freshest beer you can get is locally in a growler, popping it right out of your fridge. That’s what I do,” Scott said.
Rubicon’s pub brewer Chris Keeton says beer in growlers tends to be fresh for about three days. With a screw-top cap, it can be partially consumed and then stored in the fridge for another day or two before the beer goes flat.
“It’s something we have been looking forward to for a long time,” Keeton said behind the bar. “It’s going to increase our beer sales exponentially here at the pub, which means more styles, more seasonals, fresher beer all the time. It’s going to be wild.”
The second growler customer was Phillips’ mother, 75-year-old Lillian Phillips, a midtown resident and, it turns out, a longtime fan of IPAs.