July 7, 2016

Big Fatty’s BBQ adds ‘Crowler Pit’

Noella May Pickett Photo

Brandon Fox demonstrates the crowler-making process at his business' new Crowler Pit in White River Junction.

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Big Fatty’s BBQ of White River Junction recently unveiled a new space where it’s offering 20 additional craft beers, crowler style.

The Crowler Pit, located in the same building as the restaurant, offers an alternative to the growler containers that have become a popular part of the beer industry.

“A Crowler is a 32-ounce can that we fill on site with fresh draft beer. Then after it’s filled, we can it right there right before our customers. Crowlers offer our customers fresh draft beer every time without sitting in a warehouse for two or three months,” said Brandon Fox, the owner and general manager of the business.

Fox began Big Fatty’s BBQ and Maple Street Catering with his mother, Bethany Lewis, and stepfather, Clay Vagini, in 2003. What began as a roadside stop along Route 5 has evolved into a large 8,000-square-foot space for catering, a restaurant, and now The Crowler Pit, in downtown White River Junction.

“We’ve always been into offering a large selection of craft beers. With that, we saw our beer sales increasing. That’s when we thought The Crowler Pit would be a great addition,” Fox said.

Through the rich smell of hops and barley, The Crowler Pit is Big Fatty’s space for the retail sale of beer and is adorned with a similar décor as the restaurant. The striking rough-edge, local, pine counter that greets Big Fatty’s customers has also been implemented into The Crowler Pit. At the rugged counter a customer will most often be greeted by Fox himself, who handwrites the expansive beer menu on a chalkboard that hangs overhead.

“My main focus is to support local brewers, yet we also have a great selection of national beers, ciders and gluten-free options as well,” he said.

The Crowler Pit is not a bar, and open containers from the restaurant are not permitted into the pit — The Crowler Pit is takeaway only. However, the crowlers are served cold and are ready for consumption the moment the consumer is in a permitted location.

“The crowlers are fun for people who are packing a picnic, or seeking something different to take with them to dinner at a friend’s,” Fox said.

Beer’s least favorite things are UV rays and permeating oxygen. A crowler offers protection from both, setting this giant canned beer aside from glass-bottled beer and growlers, which both let light and oxygen in.

A crowler can be filled on any ordinary tap line by a “beer-ista,” but the catch is that it needs to be sealed with a crowler-sealing machine to cap it. The machine used for canning is called a crowler — a name that combines can and growler.

“A crowler begins as an open can without its top. Once a beer has been selected to fill the can, it’s hand-labeled. Then, I place a tube from the beer faucet into the can and fill it with CO2; after purging it from oxygen, the empty crowler is then quickly filled with beer and canned or capped. And there you have it, your fresh-canned crowler,” Fox said.

A crowler is a one-use can that is cleaned and sanitized before use and ranges from $9 to $12 at The Crowler Pit. Additionally, crowler are a great alternative for a take-along BYOB for those places that do not permit glass.

The Crowler Pit also offers a large range of local “swag” items, including Big Fatty’s merchandise, Vermont Maple Sriracha Hot Sauce, Mac’s Maple Syrup and several other items from local vendors.

The Crowler Pit is located at 186 South Main Street in White River Junction. Call 295-5513 for more information.

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