Andrew Woods caps a 32-ounce squealer filled with Acrobat Pinot Noir from Oregon at Joe’s new growler station in Midtown, where customers can taste before they buy.
After stopping by Joe’s Wines & Liquor to buy Passport to Oregon tickets (can’t wait!), I checked out the digital growler station at the back of the store. With a big-screen color menu for 30 different beers and wines, the station feels a bit carnival-like with friendly barkers and lots of prizes ready to tote home.
Honestly, I was unprepared for how a “digital beverage dashboard” could amp up the fun for sampling beers and filling growlers.
Developed by Portland-based Digital Pour, the interactive growler menu is the first in Tennessee, offering prices, product descriptions, and up-to-the-minute readouts via cute little icons about how much beer or wine is left in each keg. This information matters because when a keg blows (that’s growler-speak for empty) it will likely be replaced with a new selection.
“We’ve had some kegs blow in a weekend,” said Andrew Woods, answering questions and capping growlers for half-a-dozen customers gathered at the station’s bar. “But nothing we tap lasts very long.”
The menu is also viewable on a phone app or Joe’s Facebook page and breaks down like this: 19 craft beers (mostly American) with plenty of high gravity options, nine wines, and one Abita root beer. Bring youngsters along, and they get to taste, too.
“We give the kids little sample cups of the root beer,” Woods said. “We have parents come in to grab a growler for them and a squealer of root beer for the kids.”
A squealer, also called a half-growler or growlette because “it’s not ready to growl yet,” is just that: 32 ounces instead of the growler’s 64. Capped like growlers, the eco-friendly brown glass bottles are also used for Joe’s bulk wines, giving customers a little extra bang for their buck.
“A bottle of wine is about 23 ounces,” said Phillip White, another sales associate at Joe’s. “Since a squealer is 32 ounces, people are getting about two extra glasses, depending on how they pour.”
Supplied primarily by wineries in Oregon and California, Joe’s bulk wines give wine drinkers something fun to do with their beer-loving buddies. Plus, the selection is diverse and quite good: Chehalem Pinot Blanc, Acrobat Pinot Noir, Milbrandt Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Riesling from NXNW Vineyards, to name a few. So is the store’s beer selection, with Belgium-style coffee stouts like Wiseacre’s Got to Get Up to Get Down selling particularly well during winter months.
Brewed with espresso, Got to Get Up to Get Down has a rich-tasting backbone and a pronounced caffeine buzz. So does another coffee stout popular at Joe’s: Memphis Made Brewing Company’s Reverberation, brewed with Reverb Coffee’s locally roasted dark Sumatra beans.
“With Reverberation, there’s almost a chocolate finish on top of the coffee itself, which is great,” Woods said. “You also get a little more of stout, malt, and heaviness.”
While stouts and porters are big sellers now, look for a new menu of lighter craft beers to match the upcoming change of season.
“We will definitely be switching things out,” Woods said. “As weather warms up, we will probably do a lot more with wheat beers and IPA’s.”
Joe’s Wines & Liquor, 1681 Poplar Avenue (901-725-4252)