Growlers are a great alternative to cans and bottles for carrying beer. Their use reduces waste and facilitates the consumption of fresh beer, straight from the keg. But growlers have their drawbacks as well. Fills can be expensive (upwards of $15 for 64-ounces), and growler-clad beer doesn’t typically stay fresh for more than a couple days. Bellingham’s own Growlers Keep is confronting those issues head-on.
Started by Sandy Petersen in October 2017, Growler’s Keep operates from a quaint space in Bakerview Square. A retired civil engineer, Sandy was inspired to open his own growler shop after visiting the (now defunct) Growler Station in North Bend. He recruited his daughter, Rachel Sullivan and her husband Jim Sullivan to run the shop. Together, they run the first and only counter pressure growler-filling business in town.
Step inside to enter the beer fortress. The name “Growlers Keep” was suggested by Rachel’s sister, and a medieval theme naturally followed. One wall features a mural of a windswept Old World landscape, reigned over by Digital Pour boards featuring 48 taps. “The Drunken Monk” hangs like a massive scroll from the keg cooler. Flags adorn the brew hall ceiling, and a drawbridge extends from the bar.
What makes Growlers Keep truly unique in Bellingham is their carbon dioxide counter pressure filling system. Oxygen is bad for beer. Typically when growlers are filled, exposure to oxygen during the filling process limits the beer’s freshness to just a few days. Just like an open bottle of soda, beer goes “flat” relatively quickly. Growlers Keep utilizes CO2 fillers to limit the beer’s contact with oxygen. Growlers filled here can stay fresh for months without being opened.
In addition to keeping beer fresh longer, Growlers Keep offers reasonably-priced growler fills. Anyone who’s sworn off growlers due to an overpriced $18 fill may want to reconsider: prices here start at $9.50 (for a 64-ounce fill of Farmstrong Valley Gold). There are plenty of growler fills to be had in the $10 – $12 range as well. Pricing is simple and straightforward. 32-ounce fills cost half the price of a full 64-ounce growler. Bring your own growler, or purchase one at the shop for a few bucks more.
Growlers Keep features one of the largest tap lists in town, with 48 options lighting up the digital board. Most are regional beers from the Pacific Northwest and California, along with a few cider and kombucha offerings. The beer menu can be viewed live online at any time. Jim tells me that unsurprisingly, IPAs are some of the best sellers. Root Beer has been a hit as well.
While their current licensing does not permit pouring pints, Growlers Keep can offer up to five 2-ounce samples per customer. This is great news for those who like to try before they buy, especially considering the vast selection of beer available. Jim keeps Northwest staples like Manny’s and Mac & Jack’s on the board, along with local offerings from Boundary Bay, Wander, Illuminati, and others. One of his current favorites is a Belgian Style Imperial Stout from Sound Brewery in Poulsbo.
Growlers Keep aims to be your one-stop shop for growlers in Bellingham. They offer growler totes, cleaning supplies, and just about anything else you could possibly need. Stop by for a fill, and don’t forget to bring Fido — your pup could become the next dog of the week at Growlers Keep.
Bakerview Square Shopping Center
436 West Bakerview Road
Bellingham, WA 98226
Wednesday – Sunday
(except all Federal Holidays)
11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.