The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2013

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A LONE STAR LIFE Growler's in Houston COME FOR THE WINE, COME BACK (AGAIN AND AGAIN) FOR THE BEER by Anthony Head / photo by Kirk Weddle D "Beer Geek" Ivan Sylva mans the PEGAS CrafTap system at Growler's in Houston. espite the name of the place, I'll admit I first traveled to Houston to see the wine selections at Growler's Beer & Wine To Go. After all, who wouldn't be excited about a boutique selection of wines hand-selected by two of the city's hottest sommeliers, Jason Sherman and Vanessa Treviño-Boyd? And, in fact, I was quite impressed by the vino (Banshee Pinot Noir from Sonoma County, Lunta Malbec from Argentina, for instance). After ogling the wine racks for a while, Doug Bunze, Growler's owner and GM, told me, "Jason and Vanessa really know their small under-the-radar wines. And since every bottle here has been vetted by them, each has developed their own fan-base through their wine selections." But while I was there, I noticed that this new retail space had a steady stream of customers who, almost to a person, carried empty growlers ready to be re-filled with beer. And they all had a certain gleam in their eyes because Growler's, I soon suspected, was probably even more of a hit for its world-class suds than for its top-shelf wines. Ivan Sylva, one of the store's "Beer Geeks," was working behind the counter, and he confirmed my suspicion. "The interest in craft beers in Houston is very, very high right now. And we're in kind of a renaissance situation, with new breweries opening up at a high rate," he said. In addition to filling the growlers, Sylva also constantly seeks out great beers—especially Texas beers—to flow through the dozens of lines. "This is a great place to work for someone like me." But even with the top talent and top quality of beers and wines fully apparent, the star of this store is actually the PEGAS CrafTap counter-pressure system. If you've ever had a growler filled at a brewery, it most likely was done with a tube or hose straight from the keg—but the beer is only good for up to 24 hours. The CrafTap first injects the growler with carbon dioxide to push out the oxygen; then it fills the growler with beer via a cascade flow around the sides. "It's the same technology used in breweries," Bunze said, "and the manufacturer says the beer could last up to a year in an unopened growler." I tried to test this claim by taking home a growler of Firestone Walker's Union Jack and shoving it to the back of the refrigerator. I had hoped to forget about it for several months—but who can forget about Union Jack? So all I can report is that 72 hours later the beer was fresh and vibrant. Too bad it's such a long drive back to Houston. 40  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2013 TP1113_034-65.indd 40 10/24/13 9:18 AM

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