Beer growlers are vessels that are used to transport draft beer away from the place it was purchased. They are usually made from glass, stainless steel, or ceramic. Growlers are often used to bring home fresh beer home from a local craft brewery, but there are also several taprooms, beer stores, and even grocery stores that now sell beer by the growler. Growlers are a great way for beer drinkers to bring home a few more pints of their favorite beers when leaving a brewery.
A growler is essentially an air-tight jug that has either a twist-on cap or a porcelain cap on a hinge with a rubber gasket. Properly stored, growlers can keep beer fresh and carbonated for at least a few days, but they're not intended for long term storage.
Most glass growlers are brown or clear. The larger 64-oz glass growlers usually have a metal handle attached. Smaller growlers, which are usually 32-oz, usually have a handle molded into the glass.
Growlers can be purchased online, and are also usually available for sale in the places they are filled. Generally, the customer brings their own growler to the place of purchase to have it filled. Some locations require the growler to be purchased there.
Modern growlers come in a variety of sizes, but two standard sizes are the most common. The standard size for an average craft beer growler is 64oz. There are also smaller growlers, sometimes called a howler or a baby growler. These hold only 32 fluid ounces of beer. You will also occasionally see 1-gallon growlers, which hold a total of 128 oz of beer
A standard 64-ounce growler holds 4 pints of beer (16-oz pints, multiplied by 4, comes out to a total of 64 fl oz).
A standard 32-ounce growler holds 2 pints of beer (16-oz pints, multiplied by 2, comes out to a total of 32 fl oz).
Larger volume growlers, which hold one gallon of beer, are less common. They hold 8 pints of beer (16-oz pints, multiplied by 8, comes out to a total of 128 fl oz).
The greatest enemies of beer freshness are oxygen, UV light, and temperature. Different types of growlers are more effective than others at protecting the beer from these elements. Stainless steel growlers are more effective than glass growlers are at protecting the beer from light. Insulated stainless steel growlers also keep the beer cold longer, preventing it from getting warm during transportation. Counter-pressure growlers are the most effective at protecting beer from oxygen.
Growlers and crowlers are not intended for long term storage of beer, so the expiration date of the beer in a growler arrives faster than it does for bottled or canned beer. Because the beer is served off draft, it releases a lot of the CO2 that keeps the beer fresh and is exposed to oxygen. If you’re looking to store beer for a longer period of time, purchase it bottled or canned instead of having a growler filled.
On average, the best practice is to drink the beer within 3 days of having the growler filled. For an unopened growler that was filled and sealed properly, the beer can stay relatively fresh for up to 7-10 days, but it is better to drink it within about three days of bringing the growler home.
For best results, once the growler has been opened, any remaining beer should be consumed immediately, or you risk drinking flat beer. Leftover beer won’t be completely awful to drink in a matter of hours, but it will begin to oxidize and lose its flavor within a day or so after being opened. Rather than trying to save it, it’s a better idea to share growlers with a friend and consume them immediately upon opening them. Luckily, a few growlers of beer can disappear in a hurry with the right company!
The only exception to this rule is if you have a counter-pressure growler, which uses a small CO2 cylinder to keep the beer in the growler under pressure. This prevents the beer from oxidization and spoilage, dramatically increasing its shelf life. While these pressurized growlers can keep beer fresh for a few weeks of purchase, it’s important to remember that beer is best served fresh, and rarely improves over time.
Growlers became popular in the late 1800s. In the late 19th century, the term referred to a pitcher, glass jar, jug, pail, or other vessel that was used to bring beer home from a local pub. These glass containers began to be referred to as “growlers” because escaping carbon dioxide from the beer during transportation made a growling noise. Over time, the term began to mean a fairly specific glass jug that could be sealed to preserve the carbonation. Modern growlers are made of glass or insulated stainless steel, and are used to bring draft beer home from a brewery or retail that sells beer by the growler.
Growlers are a great way to bring beer with you when it’s not available in cans or bottles. Because many small breweries are not set up to distribute their beer outside of their own tap room, growlers are often the only way to bring their beer offsite. With the creation of the “crowler”, which is essentially a 32-oz can that is filled from draft and then sealed after purchase, the requirement to bring a growler has been relaxed some, however most breweries will still happily fill one.
Looking to buy a growler, but not sure what to get? Here are a few recommended ones:
This classic amber glass growler has a metal handle and a ceramic lid. This is often the mental image people have of a growler, and they work great. While they lack the features of more modern growlers, they are functional and have a fun, classic style.
If you want something a little more modern with more features but don’t want to break the bank on a counter-pressure growler, try one of these vacuum-sealing, insulated stainless steel growlers. Our favorite budget-friendly option is this 64-oz stainless steel bottle from Stanley, and if you're willing to spend just a little more, we also really like this one from DrinkTanks.
If you really want to upgrade your growler, you should check out the GrowlerWerks uKeg Carbonated Growler. This insulated stainless steel growler holds 64oz of beer, and features a full counter-pressure system including a pressure gauge, fill sight glass, and tap built right into the growler. It uses disposable CO2 cylinders to keep the beer carbonated and avoid oxidation, and let’s face it: the tap is just very cool. If you have a little extra budget for your growler purchase, this is a solid choice.
Most craft breweries have prices posted for a growler fill and will happily sell any of their draft beers by the growler. Many restaurants and taprooms that serve craft beer on draft will also fill growlers. Recently, even some.grocery stores have begun to fill them! A 64-oz growler of beer has an average cost of between $10.00 and $30.00, and most 32-oz growlers can be filled for between $5.00 and $15.00 at an average brewery or retail store.
Most craft breweries and many taprooms also now offer crowlers, but they are less common available in restaurants and grocery stores.
It is generally slightly cheaper per-pint to purchase beer by the growler as opposed to buying individual pints, but not always. Some breweries will also run specials where one night a week the growlers are discounted.
While it might not always be cheaper, remember that the only way that plentiful and diverse breweries will continue to exist is if they are supported. While it may be easy to say that a pint of beer is not worth $8, what you really need to ask yourself is whether having craft beer available is worth paying $8 a pint for. If we stop buying it, the breweries will go out of business, and we'll be back to drinking those terrible domestic macro-brews.
When you bring a growler to a brewery to have it filled, it is your responsibility to ensure it is clean. Some breweries will rinse it out, but if the growler is dirty, they may refuse to fill it. As soon as you pour the last beer out of the growler, rinse it out several times with hot water. After a few rinses, add some hot water, seal the growler, and swirl the water around to make sure you have cleaned all surfaces. While we usually recommend avoiding the use of soap on beer and brewing equipment, you may need to use some soapy water to make sure your growler is clean. Always make sure it is completely dry before storing it as well. Any moisture remaining in the growler can cause mold growth.
"Crowlers" (can growlers) are aluminum cans that are filled with draft beer onsite at the brewery, restaurant, or store, then sealed using a can-sealer. Once filled the crowler can be transported to where it is consumed before it is opened like any other can. Unlike growlers, crowlers are not reusable, but are a convenient and economical way to purchase draft beer for offsire consumption.
Crowlers generally hold 32oz of beer, which is two standard pints. While there are a few smaller or slightly larger crowlers our there, 32oz is the most common.
A "howler" (half growler) is a 32-oz growler. A howler holds 2 pints of beer (16-oz pints, multiplied by 2, comes out to a total of 32 oz. Howlers are usually made of brown or clear glass and a handle molded in or no handle.
A bomber is a 22-oz beer, usually sold individually. Bombers are usually bottles, but there are bomber cans as well. Unlike growlers and crowlers, bombers are usually packaged on a bottling or canning line during production rather than filled from the draft system in a taproom. While bombers are sometimes sold in taprooms, they are generally intended for distribution and retail.
Craft beer lovers should always have a growler or two on hand to bring home beer from their favorite brewery. Growlers are a great option for the transport of beer, and are a great way to bring home beer you can't get in beer bottles, like a special release from your local brewery. What are you waiting for? Grab a growler, fill it with your favorite brew, and share it with friends next Saturday night. Cheers!
Do you still have questions about growlers or anything else beer and brewing related? Leave a comment below or post in the forums! The BrewTogether Community is made up of an awesome group of homebrewers around the world that are always supportive and happy to help answer your questions!
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