When Robert McGowan went backpacking in and around Olympic National Park outside Seattle, little did he know that his journey into a unique beer market would launch a new way of offering the third most popular drink in the world to Cleveland.
McGowan is on the threshold of presenting Cleveland’s first standalone growler shop, which he likened to re-creating the wine tasting experience in the world of craft beer. The Cleveland native said he walked into the craft beer store in Seattle and noticed all kinds of beers to the drinking pleasure of the local residents.
He later noticed a national trend toward the craft-beer-to-go business and how much of the nation is seeing a surge in standalone retail beer shops, also called nanobreweries or microbreweries, and characterized by their emphasis on flavor.
“The difference in a microbrewery and a nanobrewery is the volume,” McGowan said. “A nanobrewery is a small company, maybe two individuals who do 500 gallons of beer. It’s really about the volume of beer that they make. A mircrobrewery is a step above that. When I was out in Seattle, I noticed this trend. I realized that people are getting different craft beers from local residents that have been brewing, who had their own little system — keg it up, bring it to the store and fill a growler (an 8 oz. to half-gallon bottle sold at a brewery and used by customers to transport draft beer).”
McGowan said he realized the growler itself was as important as the beer, because people were taking a novelty home in addition to enjoying high-quality beer whenever and wherever they chose. They can also bring it back for refills. We are living in a new age of beer brewing in America, according to McGowan, who wants to be the first to bring the concept to Cleveland and its increasing population.
“Beer has gotten more sophisticated. People’s taste has gotten more sophisticated. They want a different style and a different taste. They want more than your regular beer. They want a striking taste, something flavorful, something different — a lot of people love to try different tastes,” said McGowan, who attended Cleveland High and Cleveland State Community College.
“We’ll have a different selection for each month. You can get beer from all over the country. One month it might be from the Southeast. The next month from the Northeast. A month after that it might be the Midwest. We’ll get a selection of beers you can taste from all over the country.”
McGowan said he went before the Cleveland City Council in October 2013 and members were “real favorable” to the idea. His amendment proposal was to add or change an ordinance to permit the sale of craft beer growlers for off-premises consumption, which includes the tasting of products before sales.
According to McGowan, he has gotten a “thumbs up” from the City Council, and he’s also already gotten the ordinance taken care of.
“We’ve got everything moving,” he assured. “Now all I have to do is apply for my beer license and we’ll be good to go. Right now I’m trying to work on the building and get that solidified. Hopefully, I’ll be in business around June or July.”
McGowan said he and businessman Nicholas Lillios, who is renting McGowan a building, “both have the same vision. We want to revitalize downtown Cleveland. This will be a good and positive thing for downtown Cleveland, especially with the new restaurant at Five Points.”
His draft house, Mash & Hops, will carry 14 craft beers on tap, rotating them due to season and demand. It would not produce any beverages on-site. All draft beer will be transported from a manufacturing facility or distributor center. Customers will be able to taste the beverage before buying it to go, not exceeding three shot glasses, or 5.5 ounces. Distilled spirits or wines will not be sold out of the store, only premium craft beer.
For McGowan, this career move is more than an opportunity to create a new business in his hometown. It is linked to his love for a natural product that is the world’s oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic beverage,e and the third most popular drink overall after water and tea.
“I’m a beer maker myself,” he said. “I enjoy it. I home brew — since 2007. This growler store concept has exploded. There’s three in Chattanooga, three in Knoxville, and 16 to 20 in Atlanta. It’s very popular! I would say within 10 to 15 years, this will be three times as big as it is today. Instead of having 2,300 (locations), you’ll have between 6,000 to 8,000.”
Research shows that beer can be good for you, from reducing risk for broken bones and lowering blood pressure to helping ward off diabetes and dementia. In a 2005 review of 50 studies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that moderate drinkers live longer. The USDA also estimates that moderate drinking prevents about 26,000 deaths a year, due to lower rates of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
The key to tapping into beer’s benefits is moderation — meaning just one 12-ounce beer per day for women and two for men. Experts say heavy drinking can have just the opposite effect, increasing the threat of liver damage, certain cancers, heart problems, weight gain as well as impaired judgment and memory.
For McGowan, who is seeking investors in his establishment, the least of his concerns is rowdy beer drinkers who might cause trouble. Besides having a legal limit to beer tasting, Mash & Hops will be right across the street from the Cleveland City Police Department.
For further information, contact Robert McGowan at 423-667-9854 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.