First the Utah Brewers Co-op caught your eye with a top-popping, St. Provo Girl Pilsner. Then they asked, “Why have just one?” with their Polygamy Porter.
Now Greg Schirf has a “Chubby,” and it’s coming to a liquor store near you. After visiting a trade show in Germany and getting excited about a line of European 5 liter mini-kegs, Schirf tried to see if there was a way to bring the idea back to Utah. The Department of Beverage and Alcohol Control quickly told him no. Schirf says he originally wanted to try to campaign to have the law changed, but Squatters Brewmaster Jenny Talley had a better idea. “This isn’t fair,” she said. “There are 7 liter boxes of sake at the DABC store, not to mention 5 liter wine containers.” Apparently, the statewide ban on non-commercial kegs only applies to drinks like beer that are under 4% alcohol by volume–like the kind one would get from the grocery store. “Heavy” beers with higher alcohol content are considered by the state to be liquor, and are thus exempt from the anti-keg law.
Once Schirf presented it to the DABC like this, he reports they were responsive and open-minded to his proposal. The result? The “Chubby”: a 5 liter self-dispensing unit for beer, but don’t even think about calling it a mini-keg. The reason for the name Chubby is twofold: “With all of our products, we always do a gut check,” says Schirf. “We want something that gives off a convivial, fun vibe. But we also don’t want to do anything that goes too far against the establishment. That’s why we wanted to stay away from the word ‘keg’ altogether.”
This means that you won’t be finding Chubbies at Wal-Mart anytime soon, but they’ll be hitting the shelves at your local state liquor store sometime around the beginning of October. Other than portability and aesthetics, the Chubby has other advantages, such as a reduced environmental impact. Schirf explains it to me this way: “When kegs were originally banned in the 90’s. I was called in to testify in front of the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control. I asked them, ‘What’s the difference between a ‘kegger’ in 1993 before kegs were banned and a ‘kegger’ in 1994 after the ban? 140 glass bottles thrown on the side of the highway.’”
Schirf says that while there is currently no viable market in Salt Lake City for brown glass bottles, the metal Chubby can is 100% recyclable and much less likely to end up on a street corner. The steel containers themselves are imported from Germany, and are then filled at the Utah Brewers Cooperative by a special machine they had built and shipped from Italy.
Chubbies will first be available in two types: the award winning Squatters IPA and their new Wasatch Golden Ale. §