BYOB, beer fans: Growlers coming to Walt’s Market

Jeanne Meek, a clerk at Walt’s Market, shows off the new growlers with market owner Walt Hannon.  - Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review
Jeanne Meek, a clerk at Walt’s Market, shows off the new growlers with market owner Walt Hannon.
— image credit: Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review

Walt Hannon now has his face on the label of a beer bottle.

Can worldwide fame and the undying admiration of Bainbridge brew-ski aficionados be far behind?

Hannon is the owner and operator of Walt’s Market at Lynwood Center, the south end’s venerable grocery. And now, he’s on the verge of Bainbridge beer history.

Hannon, who was born and raised on Bainbridge, is bringing “growlers” to his market.

Growlers, for the uninitiated, are the ultimate BYOB idea. They’re a 64-ounce, refillable glass jug that have grown in popularity in recent years across the U.S. and Canada for taking home beer from craft breweries.

At Walt’s Market, eight taps, piping and a new counter have been installed to provide draft beer for the growlers, and Hannon hopes to have the beer pouring by this weekend.

Growler beers are strictly to-go, and won’t be a sit-down affair. Customers will be able to pop by with their empty growlers, get them filled and take their bottles home for that fresh-from-the-tap taste.

“We’re going to try to have mostly craft beer,” Hannon said, though he said the beer lineup will change over time based on customer demand.

“I’m going to really pay attention to what my customers say, and like,” Hannon said.

Regional craft beers are likely candidates for the first brews, and Hannon said he’ll also bring in seasonal flavors, and perhaps a cider or two.

The bottles will carry a cost, but customers pay a one-time deposit and then just for the beer on later visits.

Hannon said he hopes the new venture will put a little bit of fizz into his business. The economic downturn in recent years has taken a toll, and in winter, business drops off with the sparser crowds from off-island.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s been so tough the last few years, and the winters are just killing me. I needed to do something to help.”

Hannon noted the growler craze has really taken off with stores in Gig Harbor, and he spent a lot of time mulling over bringing growlers to his Lynwood store. That said, his grocery is already known for its wine and craft beer selection.

So far, there have been some costs for installing taps, as well as the growlers themselves. Employees of the grocery have also gotten licenses from the state to pour alcoholic beverages.

The first batch of growlers have been custom-made, and feature a smiling, bald-headed cartoon drawing of Hannon on the label.

“I’m nervous,” he added. “It’s a risk. But, so far, my customers are really excited about it.”

Hannon said he also has some promotional efforts in mind, such as discounted growlers on Friday burger days, and during football season.

“I think it will really be a boost for our store down here. I’m going to try to make it fun,” he said.

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