Former Evans Gas Station Now a Place for Craft Beer

April 8, 2015|

By Gary Kauffman

Marty Koger wants people be a little more adventurous with their taste buds.

Koger recently “reinvented” his BP gas station at Belair and Washington roads in Evans as Tip Top Taps, a store that sells craft beer by the growler and howler, as well as vapors. The craft beers – 20 on tap, with a constantly changing selection – offer a variety of tastes not found in the mass-marketed brands sold in most stores.

“People should open their palates to new experiences,” Koger said. “The people who created the beer, it’s their art. Most of my beers, you’re not going to find anywhere else.”

Koger opened the store on April 2 and it has already proved a popular destination. One of the first things he had to do was educate people in the CSRA what growlers and howlers are.

A growler is a 64-oz. brown-glass jug, while a howler holds 32 ounces. Patrons pay $5 for the initial growler or howler, plus the cost of the beer to fill it. After that, when they bring in their growler, they pay only for the cost of the beer. It’s a cost-effective way to enjoy new tastes.

“If you get some of these beers in a restaurant, it’d be so much more expensive,” Koger said.

The idea of Tip Top Taps was born partly out of necessity and partly out of ingenuity.

Koger, who owns four gas stations and a Dairy Queen in the CSRA, built the BP station in Evans in 1995. But as the area grew and people changed their gasoline buying habits, it became difficult to keep it going.

After trying to sell it and getting no good offers, he realized his half-acre lot was still a prime location in Columbia County.

“So I had to reinvent the store,” he said.

At the urging of his wife and daughter, he traveled to Atlanta to investigate the growing growler trend and fell in love with the idea.

While perusing pictures of Irish and English pubs, he realized that he could convert the look of the exterior to mimic a pub. With the creative help of architect Richard Fletcher and custom-built exterior moldings, he was able to create the look he wanted.

He then installed the taps inside a cooler already in the store. The cooler is divided into four sections, so he placed five taps in each, making a convenient system for organizing the beers.

Koger also decided to sell vapors for the growing trend of vapor cigarettes.

“I don’t smoke so warming up to the idea of vapors took me down an education process,” he said.

He found that the vapors were a safer option than traditional cigarettes, containing nothing more harmful than what was found in the beer or the Dairy Queen products he sold.

“I believe it truly is the future,” he said. “It is a better way, so I embraced it for my customers.”

But it is the craft beers that Koger has become passionate about, and he has set up a system that he thinks will help others develop that passion as well.

Digital menus mounted above the cooler show customers the name of the beer, the type, the origination and alcohol content. It also shows how much is left in that particular keg, an important factor because Koger likes to change the beers he offers to give his customers the widest experience.

“Whenever one (keg) blows, I replace it with a different one,” he said. “There are hundreds and hundreds of beers. I want my customers to come back to see what’s new.”

Customers can sample the beers before deciding which one to buy in their growler or howler. And that’s where he urges a sense of adventure.

“Familiarity should not be the limiter,” Koger said.

And he knows first-hand that it works.

“I was always intimidated to order something I didn’t know in a restaurant,” he said. “Now I have the confidence to do that.”

To see the current available beers at Tip Top Taps, visit tiptoptaps.com.

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