When the junior Richard Bushway suggested to his parents, Rick and Karen, that they add a growler-filling station to their South Burlington gas station and convenience store, they were understandably lukewarm. "We didn't know how well it would move," says his mother.
They gave him their go-ahead, though, and their son got to work on a wood-paneled, publike nook at the back of the store. He crafted three tap handles — using brass knuckles, a knife handle and a gun barrel — and on April 15, tapped three inaugural brews: a milk stout from Long Trail Brewing Company, a Belgian-style blonde from Harpoon Brewery, and a double IPA from Breckenridge Brewery.
Five months later, U-Save Beverage is about to sell their 500th growler. "Turns out there was quite a calling for craft beer," quips Karen, pulling a growler of Lost Nation Brewery Saison for me when I dropped in this week. (Also on tap were a stout from Dieu du Ciel and an IPA from Ballast Point.)
"I noticed they [his parents] weren't make a lot of money from gasoline," notes the younger Bushway, a longtime craft beer lover. "I began bringing in beers that I liked and that people were talking about. Then I thought, you know, some restaurants and bars are doing growlers — let's do a growler bar."
It wasn't as easy as pulling a handle; the law dictates that as a convenience store, Bushway had to directly contact every brewery whose beer he wanted to tap. "So I had to write 15 different emails to 15 different breweries. Some people said, I don't want my beer in a gas station.' But I told them, 'I'm a beer store that sells gas.' Some laughed at that." Yet talking to Bushway, it's clear that's exactly how he sees U-Save.
Bushway estimates they now fill about 25 growlers a week. Next on tap are a black IPA from Dieu du Ciel, and a lemon-pepper kolsch from Long Trail, and another as-yet-undetermined IPA. "It's Vermont. I always have to have an IPA on tap."
The refrigerators here are well-stocked with interesting bottles, too, from the likes of Mikkeller, Six-Point Brewery and Founders Brewing Co. As Karen Bushway narrates their contents, she has to explain to a customer from Boston that she could only buy one four-pack of the Alchemist's Heady Topper at a time. "They'll be gone by tonight," she says of the limited supply. Even so, the woman — who has been charged with bringing some back to Boston — sneaks on line a second time, with a second four-pack.
U-Save Beverage, 1332 Williston Rd., South Burlington. 862-2907.