Long gone are the days of the neighborhood milkman. Most people pick up their milk at the grocery store, local farmers market or from an anonymous grocery service like Fresh Direct. Dairy boxes once waiting for the promise of milk or butter sit empty, wondering if they'll ever have work to do again. Do you miss having a regular delivery, and wholesome goodness waiting at your door? Luckily for delivery enthusiasts, and craft beer lovers, there is a new man in the game: Crowlerman. Andy Breving is bringing fresh beer to Brooklyn, and he's doing it by bicycle. There are a variety of delivery and pricing options to choose from, and you will receive your beer in a crowler. For the uninitiated, a crowler is a large can of fresh, draft beer that will ensure the quality of the product inside. We ordered the individual, Thursday delivery of a 32-ounce crowler ($12) and Andy delivered it at 8pm on the nose for our 8-8:30pm window. Soon we were drinking a nice IPA called, "Pay to Play" from Rushing Duck brewery. To hear more about Andy's delivery business, and his fresh beer club read below and then head over to his website. It's time to start asking the question, "Got beer?"
BBR: When did you realize this is something you could actually do?
AB: Two answers: fatherhood and crowlers.
My wife and I moved to Ditmas Park from Williamsburg about four years ago and I almost immediately threw out my back after the move, and my son was born shortly after that. I went from having all this freedom to go out and try new restaurants and bars just outside my door to being almost completely home-bound for basically a year. I was tired, in pain, and really bored at the time, so naturally I started getting booze shipped to my place (Astor Wines and Liquors has a great delivery service for orders over $100 FYI). The one thing I couldn't get though, was the experience of sitting at a bar and trying a new beer fresh from the tap.
It goes back even further than that for me too. I had been racking my brain to figure out how to start a growler-filling delivery service for years going back to my bartending days in Williamsburg. The basic idea behind it was that everyone loves fresh draft beer, but it's pretty difficult in NYC to remember to carry around a 64 ounce glass bottle on your way to work or on the subway or whatever. So I would be like the "growler milkman" for everybody: take empty growlers to the brewery or tap room and return them to your door filled with fresh beer. The problem was the logistics of dealing with liquor delivery laws, heavy glass bottles, cleaning, and storage created a really high bar for starting up that business on a small scale. Then these Ball, crowler machines started popping up around NY, and that changed everything. Crowlers are so much lighter and easier to transport than the growlers; they really make a lot of sense for delivery in dense areas. So that also gave me a way to get the idea off the ground without needing a truck, a shipping license, and a storage space.
BBR: What is the process like in regard to receiving and filling orders?
AB: People sign up at crowlerman.com for 4-week beer flights. Right now I'm doing three delivery windows (Thu, Sat, Sun evenings), and for $50 I bring a different 32 ounce crowler of really good local beer each week ($90 for two). Members get an email describing the beer and the brewery that made it. I work with local bottle shops to fill the orders (for this run I'm excited to be partnering with 209 Station in Windsor Terrace). The crowlers are filled up on the day of delivery, and I bike around Brooklyn delivering them while wearing some sweet, legally-mandated reflective gear.
BBR:What's been the biggest challenge?
AB: The time frame of four weeks is great for curating a dynamic, seasonal beer flight, but it means I'm always essentially a week or two away from ramping up for another round.
BBR: What's been the best part?
AB: Watching people get excited about the beer. I have a long history of delivering things. I had a paper route as a kid, delivered pizzas in college in Chicago, drove an ice cream truck for a couple summers in Southwest Ohio, and then managed delivery for Dumont Burger when it opened in the late 2000's. I have had a couple of members in the club that tell me they "didn't know that beer could taste like this". Bringing people an experience like that is great. Life is simple when you bring people stuff they like.
BBR: At what point do you think you'll have to add another rider/ sidecar?
AB: As you saw on Thursday, it's pretty much a one-man show at this point. I actually limit the delivery zone and the amount of spots in each club right now to make sure I can get to everyone. I would love to get this present club up to full capacity for two nights out of the week (I'm almost there), then take on another part of NYC (Williamsburg/Bushwick or Crown Heights) while handing over the existing route to professional bike delivery people. Then I'll be able to just focus on curating the beer and building the community of the Fresh Beer Club and can hand the reflective gear off to someone else.
To sign-up, or checkout more about Crowlerman's Fresh Beer Club, visit: https://www.crowlerman.com/