I've been a fan of Stone Brewing Co. since before I was legally allowed to drink. The gargoyle imagery presents this rugged darkness that appeals to the impish child in us all - plus the beer is innovative and delicious. When the new Stone Brewing Co. World Bistro & Gardens Liberty Station opened up just 15 minutes from my domicile, I was soo excited to be able to get some of my favorite brew, fresh from the source. We bought two, 2-liter growlers and have been filling them up almost every other week, until this past Sunday when we were treated to the idiocy of the company store room and have vowed never to fill again.
Growlers are not much of a deal if you break it down. I've always assumed that filling a growler at a local brewery would be far cheaper than purchasing bottled beer at the local liquor store (no packaging, no transportation/distribution costs, etc.). Au contraire! A two liter growler of Stone IPA costs $10 at the brewery locations. That's $10 for 67.63 fluid ounces, which usually needs to be consumed within a day or so of opening. A six pack of Stone IPA generally costs about the same price - $9.99 at my corner store. That's $10 for 72 fluid ounces, which are far less perishable - I can crack open a fresh one whenever I damn well please. So why get into the whole growler-filling thing?
We do it to be a part of something we love. We do it because we watched Cheers growing up and want to go where everyone knows our name. We want the beer fresh, straight from the source. We thoroughly enjoy a good Enjoy By special release IPA, sometimes only available on draft at the brewery. We like that growlers eliminate a majority of the waste of production and packaging and keeps our recycling bin less full. So what happened, you ask, to change our position?
Maybe this isn't a big deal for some, but I don't like being hassled or harassed by establishments I choose to patronize. Though I don't support it across the board, that whole "the customer is always right" thing should be the first resort. We were running errands around town this past Sunday, so we decided to load the growlers in the car to be filled. We stopped by Stone Liberty Station for what was at least the fifth time this month. I desperately needed to use the bathroom (#2, that's right, I'm not ashamed to admit it - EVERYONE POOPS!), so my partner took the growlers and the gift card we received from an appreciative houseguest, and I went to the head. When I came out, my partner was still standing idly before the fill station, no growlers to be seen.
"Where are the growlers?" I asked.
My partner explained that the designated growler-filler-girl rudely refused to fill the growlers. Despite having been shown my partner's ID, demonstrating her to be almost ten years past the legal age, she stated that she required my identification as well before serving the beer.
"What, why?" I retorted.
"She saw that I walked in with a man and said they needed both of our IDs."
I went up to the fill station to inquire with the gentleman behind the bar: "I was wondering what is going on with her growlers. My partner told me that you wouldn't fill them for her until I showed my ID."
"Yes, that is the law," said the bartender authoritatively.
"No, it's not," I responded.
"Well it's our policy," he deferred.
Okay, before we continue, let me explain something. I'm 31 years old. My crows feet are in full force. My hair is beginning to grey and recedes on a daily basis. I had a pretty full beard at the time. We stopped by the brewery only to fill the growlers, and as stated, to use the restroom. I was not carrying my ID on me, nor was I going back to the car to get it. My face speaks for itself. I'm no spring chicken.
"Your policy?!? Don't you have room for reason? Can't you defer to your senses and faculties, which must be telling you that I'm well older than the legal drinking age? Why do you need my identification if it's my partner purchasing the product? This has never happened here before and we've been filling these things for weeks!!" I started to get a bit heated.
"It's our policy to card anyone that looks under the age of 30," was his response. By now, we were making quite the scene in the growler fill-bar, and more employees started rolling in, including the girl that refused my partner in the first place. I noticed that this was also the same woman who had filled my growlers the previous two times, and I know for a fact that she never asked for the IDs of my companions, which at one time consisted of my 20 year old and 28 year old brothers. I'm fairly certain I've rarely, if ever, been carded at a Stone location.
"Well, my policy is not to abide by unreasonable requests and idiocy that are contrary to law and reason." This is truly my official policy. "If you're unwilling to sell the beer to my partner, I would like my growlers returned, please."
"So, you want me to pour them out?" This response was stated about 5 times in the next couple minutes, at least.
"No, I think that's a terrible waste, but if you cannot see as a human being using reason and rationale that I am of the legal age to consume, but rather resort to a baseless policy, void of any discretion, then apparently that is the only solution."
I bet you can't guess his response! You got it! "So, you want me to pour them out?"
"No, I don't want that at all, but if you're unwilling to sell them to my partner because I am here and have not provided you with my identification, then what choice am I left?" By now, three employees were behind the bar whispering to one another amongst blank stares, the filling room now filled. First, a growler of Stone Ruination was dumped, followed by one of Stone Cali Belgique. It was a sad sight indeed.
Seriously, what underage kid goes into a brewery with a beautiful, 28 year old woman to fill growlers of those hopped-up beers? If he exists, I want to meet him, because he's a helluva lot cooler than I was, drinking Milwaukee's Best or whatever variety pack I could pull together from my friends' parents' fridge. If that kid exists, they should have given him the growlers for being awesome. Would they card a mother if she came in with her 14 year old son? Would they card the whole table if one person ordered a beer?
My biggest qualms in life tend to be nonsensical, overly protective, preemptive policies that circumvent the use of discretionary reason. If my partner decides to give those beers to an underage kid, that's on her, and she'll be dealt with by our criminal justice system - it's not of some punk, growler-filler-kid's concern. Am I wrong? If you don't agree, you have been beaten down by an overly authoritative system. I pity you.
I see San Diego going down a slippery slope with this whole showing of papers thing all the time, but that's a tale for another day. Today my frustrations are directed at you, Stone Brewery. Yea, I know you want to be called Stone Brewing Co.
I doubt Stone is willing to take back those cumbersome growlers with a refund, so, Attention! Calling all breweries! Who fills non-native growlers? Maybe we'll just give them away. Stone makes great beers, but we'll get them somewhere else from now on, as our growler-fill days are over.