Patent attorney Kevin Afgani and his wife, Catherine Kinslow, opened Craft and Growler just outside of Fair Park in mid-November. This new spot plays a unique role in the growing North Texas beer culture because it allows Dallasites to buy local beer and take it home to drink. See, only two local breweries bottle beer: Deep Ellum Brewing Co. and Rahr. So, the only way to try most local beer is to go to a bar.
This is how it works: you buy a growler there ($4.99 to $149), bring one you already own or they even offer small plastic ones for free. Then you choose your beer and it is injected straight from their keg gun system (more on that in a minute), after which the growler is sealed shut and ready to take home.
There are also a few other things you need to know. You can stay and sip your beer there if you'd like, perhaps at one of their custom made, refurbished barn tables, or upon bar stools that were fashioned out of old kegs. And while they don't have a kitchen, they've made friends with their new neighbors, The Meridian Room, who delivers from just down the block.
There are 30 kegs on tap and beers are rotated based on season, what's popular or what's new. Currently, 17 beers are from Dallas area breweries, including: DEBC, Lakewood, Four Corners, Peticolas, Deep Ellum, Franconia, Rahr, Revolver, 7 Points and Lone Star (Bock).
Other Texas breweries are: Real Ale, Live Oak, Leperchaun, (512) and No Label.
Recently I sat down with Kevin to chat about Dallas' first growler shop.
What inspired you to open a bar and growler shop? My wife and I were investors in Deep Ellum Brewing Co., but we had to get rid of those shares because under TABC code you can't own a brewery and run a bar at the same time. But, as investors in DEBC, one of the things that really struck me as odd was that even though we have all these breweries in Dallas, very few of them were packaged in bottles. So, if you wanted to have some at home, you couldn't. The only way to do that was through growlers. It was simply a way to give people local access.
Did you look at what other states were doing? Yeah, after some research we found that in Colorado and all across the Northwest growler shops are like gas stations. They're all over the place.
TABC code is pretty complicated on how bars and breweries can operate. What permit does a growler shop fall under? Basically, our permit allows for on and off premise beer and wine sales. It's a BG license. There are actually more than 30 TABC licenses out there. It's not a brewer's license because they aren't allowed to distribute or sell on-premise. Whereas a brewpub can sell on-premise, but they're not allowed to distribute.
When did you decide to do this? Was there a tipping point? Back in January we took a trip to New Orleans -- I actually lived there for three years. New Orleans has some of the best bars in the world.
New Orleans can be a wonderful experience or it can be the worst thing that ever happened to you. Yes, it's a love or hate kind of city. I love it though. So, we were on vacation, and we had a lot of time to reflect on things. My experience with Deep Ellum Brewing Company definitely had a lot to do with it, and I felt like we really needed to do something like this. The sense of community a bar can create can be great.
How is the beer kept fresh in the growler? We use a beer gun and just stick the head of it into the growler and inject CO2 in there, which evacuates the beer out of the growler. CO2 is heavier then air, so it stays in the growler. Once the air is evacuated, you pull the beer trigger and the beer fills up from under the CO2, so air never touches the beer. And then you seal it and it's protected for a nice long time.
Who built the system? I designed it, and I have a patent pending on it. David Gill actually built it for us. He's done a lot of great work around the city.
About how long is the beer good in the growler? With our system, at least two weeks. I'm doing a lot of personal testing and I've had mine a lot longer than that and it's totally fine. Once you open it though, you need to finish it within 24 to 48 hours.
You're a patent attorney by day, and you're still working that job too, right? Yep.
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How long did it take you to open this spot? About four months.
Was it more challenging than you thought it would be? It was one of the hardest things I think I've ever done in my life. Government permitting is really hard. The cooler system and getting the whole beer gun system down was also really difficult because no one had ever done that before. Working out the kinks in that system was hard.
How's business been so far? It's good so far.
Any future plans for the business? We're always trying to find what our customers want, and we'll respond to that. We've thought about some places that are much smaller in scale, like just off-site growler sales. I think Oak Cliff would be the perfect place for that, but Oak Cliff actually doesn't allow on- and off-premise; it's all by zone. There are different zones all throughout the city. But, I just like Oak Cliff, and think it would be a good neighborhood for this, but unfortunately we can't do it exactly like this.