Brews News Update: We’re Not Saying Lakewood On Tap is a Big Rip, But…

Straw boater? Check!

Naturally, one of us had to go sample the wares at Lakewood on Tap and the Lakewood Whole Foods. So, like the newshound he is, Tim headed down yesterday after work, empty growler in hand, stars in his eyes. What follows is the exchange between him an Whole Foods this morning:

Tim to Whole Foods: “I was all excited last night about swinging by the Lakewood store with my growler and getting it filled up, until I realized I got screwed. I paid $14 (w tax) to fill my own growler (64 oz) with Dog Fish 60 Minute. That’s roughly 22 cents per ounce. Now then. A six-pack of the same beer costs $11.89 (w tax) and delivers 72 ounces. That’s roughly 18 cents per ounce. What the heck is going on here? Suddenly I’m not so thrilled about your new growler program. Am I missing something?”

jump to find out if Tim is, indeed, missing something…

Whole Foods PR machine pinged back thusly: “It may take me a bit to reach our regional wine & beer guy, but let me look in to the pricing component. I know that benefits of the growler are the ‘fresh from the tap’ taste, we will be offering a rotating selection of craft and local beers, and it has the environmental aspect of eliminating bottles, cans and packaging that makes drinking your growler beer equal a lower carbon footprint. What I don’t know is what the price difference should be. Will be back soon with an answer.”

To which Tim ponged: “But bottles keep longer, which is a huge advantage for the consumer (that’s me!). And your costs for the keg/growler product are lower (I am guessing), so mine should be, too. I suspect you’re charging a premium for the ‘growler cool factor,’ but I’m ready to be convinced otherwise. Let me know when you hear from your w&b guy.”

That was at 11:02 am. We have heard nothing back yet.

So why are growlers more expensive than six-packs? We’ve used the intervening hour to drum up a little comparison, and it turns out a little price disparity is par for the course, but Whole Foods’ feels more like hipster gouging.

As Tim pointed out above, at Whole Foods/Lakewood on Tap, a 64 oz growler of Dogfish 60 (which yields four pints) will run you $14 if you bring your own growler ($6 extra if you have to buy one of theirs). That’s .22 per ounce. By the bottle, it’s .17 per ounce ($11.89 for a six/72 oz. after tax)

As a point of comparison, at Left Hand Brewery in Colorado, a growler costs less, between $8.50-$9.25 depending on the beer and only $2.50 for the jug if you don’t have your own. That’s .15 per oz at the top end and a $3.50 savings on the jug. By the bottle, the beer is .14 per ounce. ($10.70 for a six/72 oz. after tax) Slight difference, but nothing to make a stink about.

But still, math is math, and in both scenarios the growler is more expensive per ounce than its 6-pack counterpart.


20 comments on “Brews News Update: We’re Not Saying Lakewood On Tap is a Big Rip, But…

  1. I got in a big spat with someone via twitter over this exact topic. I feel the exact same way as Tim and certainly don’t see a good reason to pay a significant upcharge for a beer you can easily find in a bottle/can elsewhere for a better price. Also, Lakewood’s fee is actually par for getting a growler fill: Whole Foods (the Austin flagship on Lamar), Whip-In, Petrol Station, most Alamo Drafthouse locations, and other brewpubs in Texas charge about $14-15 a 64 oz fill.

    Bottom line: The math is certainly correct, so if I’m getting a growler filled, it better be for something that’s draft only (ie: Live Oak or (512) beers). That’s where I’d feel the additional charge is justified.

  2. To add, I do know there are some lower priced places in Austin like NXNW and Uncle Billy’s who do $10-11 fills, but haven’t personally been there to confirm. Draughthouse is about $13-14 too.

    All in all, it’s also worth noting what they initially have on tap isn’t an indicator of what will always be there. I do support what they’re doing, but I’m in no rush until I start seeing kegs rotating and we see more of a draft-only presence. Call me when I can get fills of say… Southern Star Walloon, Jester King Drink’in The Sunbelt or Live Oak Hefeweizen.

    ps, World Beer Company’s Bottle Shop (I seriously have no clue what this place’s real name is), has (512) Pecan Porter available for filling and Southern Star Walloon on tap.

  3. Your first clue that they were charging too much should have been that you were in Whole Foods. That’s their thing. It’s what they do. But for the doucher who shows up to the party with a growler full of suds, it’s totally worth it.

  4. Interesting. I have some insight into what various products costs from the brewer, and I looked at a few different ‘craft’ brands. If you look at cost per ounce from a case vs keg standpoint, it is about 40% more. So you are right, it should be less in theory. You have to cover the price of keg deposits, co2, draft equipment, etc, but still a bit of price gouging I would think.

  5. Does the customer fill their own container, or does an employee? That may have a big bearing on the cost per ounce.

  6. I am Devon Broglie the “Regional Wine and Beer Guy”.

    While the wholesale cost per ounce of buying beer in keg is in most cases slightly less than buying the same beer in bottled format (though interestingly, in some cases it is more), when one adds the cost of draft equipment, labor, necessary cleaning and sanitation of the draft system, and the very real spoilage that occurs while pouring draft beer, the “real cost” of selling beer on draft is much higher than simply the wholesale cost per ounce might suggest. We’ve worked very hard at Whole Foods to keep our pricing on draft beer as low as possible and we are confident lower than the Dallas average. Additionally, in our stores the Growler purchase price offers a significant discount from the pint pricing. A $5 pint of Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA is the cheapest in town and at $12.99 (before tax, let’s leave the state out of this) for the 64 oz Growler you save $7 (over 35%) over the pint pricing.

    At the end of the day fresh draft beer simply costs more for the consumer to purchase than bottled beer that may have been packaged as many as 6 months ago. The Growler format is designed to provide the opportunity for true beer aficionados who can appreciate the difference to have fresh pulled draft beer “to go” for enjoyment in the comfort of their own homes.

    PS I also did some checking on my own. I called Dogfish Head’s brew pub in Rehobeth Beach, DE near where their brewery is located. It just so happens that they sell growlers too! Cost to fill a 64oz Growler of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA… $14 (before any taxes). Suddenly our $12.99 doesn’t seem so pricey after all…

  7. @Darren, our TABC certified team members pour the beer for the guests.

    @Tim/Sarah, as a note, at all our in-store bars, a customer can purchase a bottle of wine or champagne off the shelf. We will open & serve to them at the bar in our stemware, and they have only paid the retail price of the bottle. We don’t upcharge to the per-glass price that many restaurants charge that is fairly close to the price of the whole bottle.

    Did we mention that our Highland Park store’s having a party on Saturday the 25th, noon-4, with their soon-to-be-installed new growler system? Free wine & beer tasting, food and music. Then our Park Lane store gets their growlers this month, too.

    We’re growlin’ in Dallas, for sure!

  8. This article seems slightly short-sighted. Props to the author for figuring cost-per-ounce in the growler vs. 6-pk. In this day and age, informed consumers are looking at cost per unit (oz., lb., etc.), and I’m sure many readers might start looking more closely at the cost of the many other items they purchase.

    I say this appears short-sighted for two reasons:

    One, the only growler cost-comparison in the article is to the cost of a growler filled by the producer. We all know that buying directly from a producer is usually cheaper than buying from a retailer/reseller. I’m not going to harp on this, I just feel that it was a very poor example.

    Second, and more important is the scope of this accusation. Why not complain about how much a pint of craft beer costs at the Ginger Man compared to the same product in a bottle? What about wine? A glass of Blackstone Merlot at any restaurant is usually a buck or two less than a whole bottle bought at a store. My favorite in Texas? The cost of fajitas at your fave Tex-Mex joint versus the cost of skirt at the butcher’s.

    My point is that Lakewood on Tap isn’t doing anything different than any bar or restaurant in Dallas–acknowledging that point in the article would be fair.

    Out of curiosity, did you notice the difference in flavor of your draft Dogfish 60? Always better out of a keg, in my opinion.

  9. Hey haters, where else in Dallas can you get a growler fill with anything?
    I agree that until draught-only offerings can be had, I won’t be doing it, but this is a very positive step in the right direction and I am sure the folks at Whole Foods will be on top of getting some rare and exciting things.
    Too bad for me that it is like an hour drive one way to get to Lakewood. Bring on Park Lane!!!

  10. Hmm… so where else in Dallas can you get a growler of DFH 60 Min IPA AT ALL? It’s hard enough to find a GD 6 pack sometimes because of the demand for DFH since they decided to grace the good state of TX with their glorious nectar. Whole Foods could charge whatever they want, yet they’re charging a buck less for a growler than the Dogfish Head brewpub in Delaware and D Mag thinks they’re gouging? If any of you can’t see the value in a $12.99 growler of FRESH 60 minute IPA, awesome. Leave it for me to grab some before the keg floats. And I’ll grab a 6pk too on my way out.

  11. I am Jackie, a “Beer Specialist” for Sugar Land’s Whole Foods.
    I would like to note in response to other comments that when I got a growler fill at Bar Lamar I purchased Live Oak’s Bock. And, here in Sugar Land we have tapped the aforementioned “Drinkin’ in the sunbelt” and “Walloon” as well as Independence’s draft only special “Rood”. I know I personally make an effort to put special items on tap for my customers to enjoy and work closely with my distributors to do so; we also communicate with other stores quite frequently and all make a conscious effort to bring in the best of the best. Also, here in Sugar Land we offer these pints at $5 which is way below the standard for much of the Houston area for such hard to find brews.

  12. @Karen and @Devon: Thanks for the intel. I’m afraid more research is necessary. Now I have to refill my growler AND buy a sixer. I’ll have to compare the two pours and see whether I can taste a difference.

    Good grief. My job is frickin HARD!

  13. Reporting from the bar at WF Lakewood…I’ve sat here for 10 minutes enjoying my Dale’s Pale Ale and I’ve watched exactly six 1oz samples of various beers leave the taps for people who want to try the offerings. At no charge. Imagine how much beer is lost to samples and being poured off the head, etc. @Tim, stay off the food blogs please.

  14. hear, hear to irish, mike, john, and zeke. fair points all.

    in my experience, there’s not many places that will let you sample everything to make sure you like the beer you’re buying. and knowing whole foods, they’re filling the growler with beer, not foam. if you’re still not happy, i bet you could bring the unused portion back for a refund or exchange. they do that kind of thing there too.

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  16. Hello! Having moved back to Texas after 13 years in Beer City (Portland, Oregon), I have sorely missed being able to get a growler of FRESH beer. I suppose that I could do the cost computations, analysis of pur techniques, etc., but I’d rather pay a little extra for a better tasting beer and just sit back and enjoy it. I’m sure if I wanted to that I could find that I’m being “gouged” on a lot of things that are more costly and less enjoyable than beer.

  17. @Irish: Point of clarification. You will notice that I didn’t put up this post. I was merely ASKING the people at Whole Foods for more information — which conversation Sarah then posted. And, yes, I just threw her under the bus.

    Thanks for saying please, though.

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  19. I feel the need to call BS on Devon’s claim that the store has to clean and sanitize the tap lines. The beer distributors provide that as a free service. Also, draft equipment is a fixed cost and will be paid off over time, not a cost that should affect every day prices. While spoilage may occur, it is very unlikely with beer, considering the preservation CO2 provides. The keg would have to sit for a month, which is also unlikely.

    While it is a cool service and growlers are fun, I agree with the poster that points out that over-charging is simply what Whole Foods does best. I shop there and I enjoy the store, but I’ve never fooled myself into thinking I’ve gotten a good deal from them.

    You’ll never get a good deal filling a growler unless it’s unavailable from a bottle or unless you can buy it straight from the brewery. The latter of which is illegal in Texas. You can than Anheiser-Busch/InBev, Rick Perry and your buddies down in Austin for that one.