"We were never intending to open a bar of sorts. It was a really cool happy accident."
When Ray’s Growler Gallery (8930 W. North Ave.) had its grand opening on June 14, 2014, Ray’s president Orey Laev wasn’t really sure what to expect from the cozy second-floor spot located in an area of offices above Ray’s Wine & Spirits. The original plan was to give patrons a chance to fill up fresh growlers of special beers from a constantly rotating menu.
“The idea behind the Growler Gallery was to be a family-friendly establishment in the exploding scene of craft beer, where enthusiasts could grab growlers of brews not available in package downstairs in our shop,” said Laev. “In essence, to have the best of both worlds of craft beer under one roof without having to travel to some of the more craft centric parts of town.”
The Growler Gallery has become much more than that. It’s a place where beer fans hang out, linger at the horseshoe-shaped bar and cushy couches and enjoy pours of a wide range of beers. In the summer of 2015, it expanded to include an outdoor patio.
“The biggest surprise was that so many folks wanted to hang out upstairs and we ended up scrapping the idea of having the Gallery be solely a ‘fill station’,” Laev said. “The business plan totally went the other way. We were never intending to open a bar of sorts. It was a really cool happy accident.”
Since opening, the Growler Gallery has hosted countless weekly tap takeovers and bottle shares. It fills early in the morning on Super Saturday (Ray’s big beer event the weekend after Thanksgiving) and pours plenty of Founders KBS when the coveted stout is released in April. Three years ago when the Growler Gallery tapped a keg of rare Founders CBS Imperial Stout at 5 p.m., a line snaked around the building by 3 p.m.
It’s become a craft beer haven for those on the west side, and on Wednesday (June 13) it’s hosting a celebration. The Annivers-A-Ray party will include boozie slushies, wine, rare whiskies and, of course, great beer.
Ray’s Growler Gallery Annivers-A-Ray Party
Wednesday, June 13, 5 p.m.
The first six beers being tapped (expect more surprises):
Toppling Goliath Scorpius Morchella IIPA, 7.8% ABV
Toppling Goliath Double Dry Hopped Pseudo Sue Pale Ale, 6.8% ABV
Surly Darkness, Russian Imperial Stout, 12.0% ABV
New Glarus Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Beer, 4.0% ABV
Perennial Sump Imperial Stout, 10.5% ABV
3 Floyds Region X Dortmunder Lager, 6.0% ABV