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Pull Into This Sunoco, And Fill Up on Beer

Soon you might be able to fill up a growler while topping off your gas tank.

Pennsylvania-based gasoline retailer Sunocois testing a pilot program called the Craft Beer Exchange. The program installs "beer-filling stations” (taps and Kegerators) at Sunoco APlus convenience stores where they are allowed to sell draft beer in growlers, which are glass jugs, typically 64 ounces in size.

Sunoco operates more than 600 APlus convenience stores located in 24 different states along the east coast and as far west as Ohio.

At the moment, the program is being tested in western New York at 12 Sunoco APlus convenience stores.

“Buffalo is good testing location because there is a critical mass of Sunoco retail locations,” says Thomas Golembeski, a Sunoco spokesman. “There’s also a large beer-loving community and a strong group of microbreweries in the area.”

The company works closely with area beer distributors to select which beers will be made available and is soliciting feedback from customers through suggestion boxes and customer service representatives.

Sunoco convenience store employees went to a local distributor to learn about safety and sanitation and then visited the Flying Bison Brewery in Buffalo to practice filling the jugs.

The program is entering the second of a three-month test phase and the company intends to study the results before making a decision about expanding to other areas, but the initial outlook is good.

“The feedback has been very positive,” says Golembeski. “During the first month, it has been a success just by word-of-mouth alone. It’s very clear there is an interest in it.”

The growlers feature the "APlus" logo on the back. Usually, the jugs would cost $3.99, but the company is giving them away for now with every first-time beer purchase as long as the customer also fills up on gas.

The cost of the beer itself can range from $7.99 to as much as $16.99 depending on the type selected. Since open containers are not allowed in New York State, the store places a sticker on the cap to seal the jug shut.

The Sunoco program is the latest in a growing line of retailers jumping on the beer bandwagon. Fast-food chains such as Sonic and Burger King recently announced some of their outlets would soon begin selling beer, and a handful of Seattle Starbucks stores have also started offering beer and wine.

Earlier this year, Duane Reade installed growler bars in a couple of their New York City pharmacies.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Tom Rotunno on on Twitter @tomrotunno.

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