‘Growlers’ owner looks to add cheer on Court Square
by Clay Neely
“I may not get rich doing this, but at least I’ll be dealing with happy people. If you can pick your demographic, it might as well be a happy one.”
Or so says Jason Kanner, owner of ACE Beer Growlers, which is set to open up on downtown Newnan’s West Court Square in November.
“We’ve had a really positive response from the community so far. Our neighbors, the city, everybody we have come in contact with has been really supportive. It’s been a real pleasure and I think it’s a perfect fit. People are receptive to the idea.”
Last August, Newnan City Council approved an amendment to its alcohol ordinance, allowing the sale of packaged growlers. A growler is a “bottle, container or vessel with a capacity of at least 12 ounces and not exceeding 64 ounces that is designed for and especially intended to be filled with beer from a keg.”
With the ordinance amendment, they will only be able to be sold at licensed establishments and retail package dealers who are authorized to sell malt beverages by the package and are located within the central business district of Newnan.
According to Kanner, the word “growler” dates back to the late 19th century, when fresh beer was carried from the local pub to one's home by means of a small galvanized pail.
“The sound that the CO2 made when it was escaping from the lid sounded like a growl,” says Kanner.
Georgia is an on-premise state that employs the three-tier system. This means producers can sell their products only to wholesale distributors who then sell to retailers, and only retailers may sell to consumers.
Now with growler shops springing up in Decatur and northside Atlanta, Kanner is proud to bring them to the metro area’s south side.
Since opening the first store early this year in Fairburn, Kanner has noticed that almost half of his clients are coming from Newnan.
“I used to drive to Atlanta to shop at Hop City and then drive all the way home to Newnan,” said Kanner. “They were the only business that had my favorite beers on draft.”
Kanner was born and raised in Fairburn but moved to Sharpsburg when he was 10 years old. He went to school at Valdosta State, moved to Savannah and then back here in 2011, all the while working with Best Buy’s “Geek Squad.”
He had discussed the idea of opening a growler store with his father, but the opportunity fully presented itself once Geek Squad began laying off employees.
“I initially didn’t want to leave, but decided this is probably for the best,” said Kanner.
His father, Spencer, is formally retired but is helping his son as a financial consultant.
Having been an owner of a liquor store for half of his life, his knowledge has proven to be extremely valuable in terms of helping Jason get ACE off the ground.
“It’s a great opportunity to stay active with my son,” said Spencer.
Jason recalled, “I called my dad once after having a horrible day while I was still working for Geek Squad. I was in the middle of venting about something and realized that he had hung up on me. I called him back asking what the deal was and he said, ‘You’re complaining about having a bad day playing with TVs. Some people actually have bad days, you know.’”
Spencer added, “It’s a great business because people enjoy what we sell. I have a son-in-law who is a dentist. No one goes to see him when they’re happy. His day is filled with mothers yelling at him and kids screaming. That’s what separates this business from many others.”
One of the major aspects of the new business is educating the customer in regards to their product. Many people may associate craft beers with either being expensive or upscale.
“It’s not a beer snob store. If you are one, feel free to shop here, but that’s the biggest detractor you could have. If you can’t meet the customers’ needs, you’re useless,” said Jason.
Rather than using standard terms like “Imperial Stout,” “Double IPA” or “Bohemian Pilsner,” Jason has instead taken a more universal approach in regards to helping a customer find the beer that’s the perfect fit.
“I try to group beers into categories such as how you would experience them — ‘Are you looking for a lawn mowing beer, a campfire beer, a fall beer?’ — Different beers fit different points in your life,” said Jason.
“Every pot has its lid,” said Jason. “I want to be able to help people find a beer that they’d enjoy. I don’t really know everything there is to know about beer, and frankly, I don’t want to. What I do know is how to take care of people. It’s all about service. You can know everything there is to know about a product but if you can’t relate to the customer, you’re useless.”
ACE Beer Growlers intends to stock not only local brews but also national and international brands.
“Some stores sell domestic only. My only rule is that we sell craft beer. My delivery driver gets a paycheck, regardless if it’s domestic or imported. That’s domestic enough for me,” said Jason.
ACE Beer Growlers plans to offer gift certificates, an appropriate idea considering their late November opening date. Beginning with a selection of 30 beers on tap with 65 to 75 labels of craft beer in packaged collections, ACE also plans on carrying microbrew kits, meat rubs, jerky, nuts, jellies and a variety of snacks.
“You can park here, walk across the square and get what you want, drive four minutes and get home. If someone needs a specialty wine, we can get whatever they need,” said Jason.
ACE also will be providing special orders for beer, wine and craft kegs for events.
Asked about some of the labels that he’s particularly proud to stock, Jason said: “Strawn, from Fairburn. It doesn’t get much more local than that. Abide is set to open soon and they’re based out of Tyrone. Boulevard Brewing Company, which is based out of Kansas City.”
Another particular favorite for Jason is stocking numerous varieties from the Oskar Blues Brewery, one of the first companies to can craft beer.
“They made it cool to can,” says Jason.
“Some people have a negative connotation of canned craft beer, but it’s like having a miniature keg in your fridge that you crack one at a time.”
Other brands will include Delirium and St. Bernardus, two Belgian-based brewing companies.
“I do as much as I can with local breweries, but there are so many great products to be had around the world and I’ll do my best to carry them.”
Part of the enjoyment for Jason is exposing people to new products.
“If someone wants a keg of Miller, I can get you a keg of strong wheat instead. Say maybe a keg of Victory Prima Pils. It’s like a Warsteiner, which is essentially the Budweiser of Germany.”
“It’s fun to come in and try it and the cost isn’t that bad. I provide a much better product within only a $30 dollar price range. Many of these beers are only available on draft so you get to take home and enjoy something you’d have to search a bar to find.”
The smell of fresh sawdust fills the air as we shuffle over to the counter to take a photograph of Jason sitting on the serving counter, still under construction.
“A job with a happy person on both sides of this counter,” he says. “That’s all I’m really interested in.”