What does a craft beer scene newbie do when he wants to open a beer pour station in Houston but doesn’t know a sour from a stout? If you’re Doug Bunze you enlist the help of beer nerds on Craigslist and begin fervently tracking BeerAdvocate.
The result is experimentation with growler fill methods and hit-or-miss brew selections at the new Growler's Beer and Wine To Go at 1005 Waugh Drive.
Bunze says his claim to uniqueness in the ever-expanding growler fill market, which offers beer and wine in to-go jugs, is the CraftTap filling system, a counter-pressure fill method that mimics the methods used in bottling factories, replacing oxygen with CO2 with increased pressure, ensuring a longer shelf life and reducing the rate of beer contamination and waste. The technique is said to offer a fresh growler for months to a year — not that you’d want to keep a growler full for that long.
“Beer geek is not only a term of endearment, but it commands respect."
“Each [station] will hold four different beers in it — there are four beer lines and a C02 line in each,” Bunze says about the odd-looking tap containers, which look more like bank cartridges than anything containing tap lines.
Growler's currently has 32 beer taps operating and expects to be at 60 (depending on the market) in the next two to three months. The selection will extend to six taps of wine and two cider taps, an attempt to attract a more diverse audience.
Some local beer nerds might find it hard to accept a tap variety from a former television production executive with little-to-no experience in the beer industry, but what Bunze lacks in beer knowledge he makes up for in enthusiasm and risk taking, expending a large investment in this company and leaving his family in Florida to pursue success in Houston.
He is not shy about his lack of acquaintance with the industry, admitting that he is entering a field in which he is relying heavily on a group of enthusiasts.
“Most people understand that when somebody invests their life’s savings into something, and picks up and leaves [his] home and family in Pensacola, he is pretty passionate about it and committed to it,” Bunze says. “When people understand what I’ve put into it and that I work 100 hours a week to make this successful, [then] they are very accepting.”
“Here’s our commitment to Houston and Texas, and it’s not just bullshit: We have domestic which is from Texas, import which is anything outside of Texas."
As far as Bunze’s commitment to his new home, he says there is Houston and then there is everywhere else. Although his initial push out of Florida was that state’s laws prohibiting growler fill stores, he claims to be as much a Houstonian as an aspiring beer guru.
“Here’s our commitment to Houston and Texas, and it’s not just bullshit: We have domestic which is from Texas, import which is anything outside of Texas and international, which is anything outside of the United States,” Bunze says.
The extended grand opening will offer beer tastings and events with local breweries that will run until April 13. Karbach, 8th Wonder and Saint Arnold will be a part of the events that will offer consumers a taste of the what’s on tap at this new Montrose fill station. All the while Bunze will continue attempting to familiarize himself with the industry, and in the meantime he will defer to his group of consultants and growler-filling employees, who he has affectionately dubbed his beer geeks.
“Beer geek is not only a term of endearment, but it commands respect,” Bunze says. “If they know their shit, they have a ‘beer geek’ shirt, and I don’t know my shit. I own the place, but I’m not a geek . . . yet.”
Bunze says he welcomes suggestions and advice from the passionate local beer community and is receptive to feedback. He is open to reading messages from local imbibers who want to offer constructive criticism.
He says, “this has been an amazing city and an amazing experience with the beer community because people here are so passionate about it, and they could easily have rejected me because I don’t have the experience.”