Naperville brewpub hoping to start selling 'crowlers' that customers can take home

  • Red Arrow Tap Room in downtown Naperville hopes to give customers the ability to buy a crowler, a 32-ounce takeout can, from its 48 self-service beer taps. But the Naperville City Council would have to change some of its liquor ordinances to match a state law first.

      Red Arrow Tap Room in downtown Naperville hopes to give customers the ability to buy a crowler, a 32-ounce takeout can, from its 48 self-service beer taps. But the Naperville City Council would have to change some of its liquor ordinances to match a state law first. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer August 2018

  • Joseph Tota, founder and CEO of Red Arrow Tap Room, says his customers often ask if they can take home samples of the craft beers the restaurant sells from a "beer wall" of 48 self-service taps. He hopes to begin offering 32-ounce cans called crowlers to make takeout sales possible.

      Joseph Tota, founder and CEO of Red Arrow Tap Room, says his customers often ask if they can take home samples of the craft beers the restaurant sells from a "beer wall" of 48 self-service taps. He hopes to begin offering 32-ounce cans called crowlers to make takeout sales possible. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer, August 2018

 
 
Updated 9/10/2019 12:27 PM

A craft beer-centric restaurant open for a year in downtown Naperville wants to follow a trend in brewpub packaging and begin selling crowlers.

A crowler isn't a typo of the word "growler," which itself is a glass jug that can be filled at breweries with 64 ounces of beer to take home. It's a variation on the theme, a 32-ounce aluminum can filled via tap at a brewery or brewpub, then sealed for later use.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Red Arrow Tap Room opened last August at 216 S. Washington St. featuring a "beer wall" of 48 self-service taps, nearly all of them pouring craft beers and many of them local.

Founder and CEO Joseph Tota said customers ask all the time for the ability to take home a favorite beer they've sampled, and selling crowlers would make that possible.

"We've got a lot of great craft beer on tap, and we just want to make it available for our customers," Tota said. "It gives more exposure to a lot of the independent craft brewers that we sell."

A new state law effective Aug. 23 allows beer manufacturers or brewpubs to fill growlers or crowlers for consumption elsewhere and allows customers to drive with the jugs or cans without being cited for having an open container of alcohol. State Rep. Grant Wehrli, a Naperville Republican and former Naperville City Council member, was a chief co-sponsor of the bill.

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Naperville's local liquor ordinances, however, do not allow businesses with a restaurant liquor license or establishments in the downtown business district to sell alcohol for off-premise consumption.

Red Arrow falls into both categories as a downtown restaurant, so Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Steve Chirico said city codes would need to change for the business to start selling crowlers.

The liquor commission began considering the request but plans to discuss it again, likely in October, before making a recommendation to the city council, Chirico said.

The idea got a mixed review, liquor commission member Scott Wehrli said. The trouble with changing codes to allow one business to pursue a new opportunity, he said, is that the new permission then applies to all other businesses with the same type of license.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I'm not necessarily interested in going down that road," Scott Wehrli said.

If the crowler idea is approved, Tota said, Red Arrow would purchase can-sealing equipment as well as empty crowlers and labeling materials for a few thousand dollars. Red Arrow also is working with city leaders in Elmhurst, home of its original location, on code changes to allow for crowler sales.

"We like the idea of just having two pints that somebody can sample," Tota said.

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