Review: Beer From a Growler

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There’s been a rather remarkable change over the past few months. As late as the end of summer, I don’t think I’d heard the term “growler” before. By the fall, I’d found a store, the beer lover’s heaven known as Ale Yeah, that offered them. Now, they seem to be everywhere. There is literally no direction I can go upon leaving my house without passing a store that offers quality craft beers and ales in growlers. The neighborhood markets, Cander Park Market and Oakhurst Market, carry them. Heck, even the gas station at the end of my street has them now.

For those of you who are where I was just two seasons or so ago, a growler is a glass beer bottle, 64 or 32 ounces, filled with beer from a tap. The term growler dates way back to the late 19th century, before the dawn of the age of the six-pack, when folks carried fresh beer home from the local pub in a small bucket. The inside of the pail was usually coated with lard to decrease foam, meaning more beer for the buck (if you don’t mind a certain lardy taste). Supposedly, the escaping CO2 made a growling noise when it escaped from the lid as the beer sloshed around.

Pick your ale from a list like this, fill 'er up, and enjoy!

Modern growlers are glass bottles, not lard-coated tin (or whatever) pails. You buy your bottle (they’re pretty cheap. I mean, it’s a glass bottle.), and it’s yours to keep forever. Take it back to the shop of your choice, and choose a beer from a selection that (in the stores around my neighborhood, anyway) changes regularly. They’ll sanitize and fill your growler, send you home, and then it’s time to enjoy. You don’t get the growly sound anymore, but then, you don’t have to worry about the lard, either. So, you know, give and take.

There’s something that’s just deliciously old-fashioned about growlers. Maybe it’s just the novelty, but frankly, I can’t help thinking that beer tastes better when it comes from a growler. After all, you won’t have to go far to find someone who thinks draft beer is better than canned or bottled. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you’re more likely to find people who’ll disagree about why draft is better than those who quibble about the premise itself. Growler beer is draft made portable and convenient.

There’s another advantage, too. Sometimes, you just want a little beer (I’m as surprised as you are, but yeah, that’s possible). Not a whole bottle or pint. With a growler, you can pour as much or as little as you like (well, up to 32 ounces, anyway). The choices are usually craft beers, and the selection is usually eclectic and well-chosen, when more than a few that you might not have discovered otherwise. Yeah, even at the gas station.

I’m not sure when or how then trend got started, or rather rediscovered. I certainly have no idea how or why it became ubiquitous so quickly. But I’m delighted. Oh, one more thing. Someone asked my wife Carol and me how long beer in a growler would last when opened. Does it go flat after a certain amount of time? Carol just smiled and shrugged. “We don’t know,” she admitted. Like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

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3 responses to “Review: Beer From a Growler

  1. Nice overview of the history of packaged beer. I’m surprised you are just now hearing of growlers. I think my first purchase of beer in a growler dates back to when I living in Parkersburg WV and would pick up beer in Cinci from the Rock Bottom restaurant (or what was there before it) on Fountain Square. So that goes back nearly 20 years.

    I don’t agree that a growler is much help when you want a smaller serving of beer. Like buying sodas in 2 litre bottles, the more air left in the bottle, the more the remaining beer goes flat.

    Unfortunately, our growler options here are thin, with the best option going to the Ghost River brewery downtown. Since they have only just started bottling one beer, the growlers are still *almost* the only way to enjoy any Ghost River product at home.

  2. Hi John. I too love the growler…but GA has to start letting us get them directly from the brewery. In my humble opinion growlers are best when they give us access to limited brews straight from the brew master. Buying a growler (5 beers) of sweet water for more than it costs for the exact same six pack two shelves over is ridiculous. what I want to be able to do is is go over to 5 seasons and get a fresh pour of a limited batch available only on site. That type of change would be a boon for our local brewers and would foster more growth in the local industry rather than giving us keg bottles of non Georgia beers.

  3. Kent, I couldn’t agree more. Carol and I took the Red Brick tour this week (highly recommended), and it would have been great to fill a growler. Or that Scotch Ale from Max Lagers….

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