Growlers are not new on the market, but they sure have increased in popularity recently as they are a more eco-friendly way to consume beer. Think about it: you can buy a 6-pack of beer, and then have to dispose of the cans, or you can take your reusable 64 ounce growler to your local brewery and fill it up without creating extra waste. Plus, it’s just fun to have a jug of beer sitting around.
What is a Growler?
A growler is a large container used to carry beer in bulk. The most popular sizes are 64 ounces and 32 ounces. They range from simple glass jugs with screw caps to more complex pressurized stainless steel containers that can keep beer carbonated for weeks.
History of the Growler
The origin of the “growler” is thought to be set back in the 1800s, when people would use tin pails to carry beer home from the pub. It is believed that it got its name from the growling sound that would occur when the beer sloshed around, releasing carbon dioxide.
By the 1950s, waxed cardboard containers (similar to milk jugs) became the new way to carry home beer.
But by the 1960s, breweries were allowed to sell beer in plastic containers after hours (in stores) for the first time. This seemed to eliminate the need to take large quantities home from the pub, which is why the growler came about in the first place.
The growler lost popularity over the next couple decades, but was revived again in the late 80s by a Wyoming brewery. Charlie and Ernie Otto, the brothers who owned Otto Brothers Brewing Company (now Grand Teton Brewing), wanted to find a way to let people take home their beer. They didn’t have the ability to bottle it, but they were familiar with the old practice of using growlers. They brought it back with the first modern growler in 1989.
This picture from their website shows the evolution of the growler:
How Long Do Growlers Keep Beer Fresh?
Depending on the type of growler, they may keep beer fresh and carbonated for many weeks.
A simple version of the growler is a glass jug with a lid that screws on. These are easy to take to breweries and fill up for home use. But they won’t keep your beer carbonated for long. It’s like opening a soda bottle and saving it for later – it’ll start getting flat after a couple days.
Example of a simple amber glass growler:
Note that a dark amber glass growler is better than using clear glass due to the fact that light can negatively impact the quality of the beer.
You’ll also see stainless steel growlers. Some of these have a simple screw or latch lid as well, like these handy portable growlers. But there are also growlers with special pressurized systems for keeping beer carbonated longer.
For keeping beer fresh for longer periods of time, people use stainless steel pressurized growlers. These have special C02 regulators that keep beer nice and fizzy.
Example of pressurized growler from GrowlerWerks:
Which Type of Growler is Better?
It totally depends on your preference. If you’re taking home a growler-full for immediate use, you might not need a pressurized growler. But if you hope to keep the beer carbonated for several days, a pressurized growler may be the way to go.
How to Pressurize a Growler
This process involves installing a C02 cartridge, filling your growler with beer, and then turning the pressure to the appropriate PSI (pounds per square inch). Different types of beer need a different PSI, but generally the lighter the beer the higher the PSI.
Recommended PSI for Growlers
This chart, provided by Growlerwerks, gives some guidelines on how you should pressurize your growler. These are just recommendations though; you can experiment to find your own ideal settings!
How Do You Clean A Growler?
If you use the beer in your growler right away, you can usually get away with a hot rinse and setting the growler out to dry. But if you had beer sitting in it for a while, you may want a more thorough cleaning.
If your growler is wide enough, you can use a soft brush to scrub the inside. But cleaning powder is a great way to go. PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) is a popular option as it is specially made for beer paraphernalia. You add about an ounce of powder, fill with warm water, and let the cleaning powder do its thing and remove residue.
Note that the more complex pressurized growlers will come with their own cleaning instructions. Some have parts that will need to be taken apart and rinsed separately.
Growlers should always be set out to air dry completely.
For more detailed instructions, see this page on 3 easy ways to clean a growler.
Where Can You Get A Growler?
If you want something a little more personal, though, some breweries offer their own branded growlers. These are usually screw-top glass growlers with their logo printed on them. Check with your favorite local brewery to see whether they offer their own.
Alternatives to a Growler: Mini-kegs and Crowlers
Although all beer vessels are generally given the name “growler,” the traditional growler is 64 ounces. You can also buy a 32 ounce growler if you’re just looking to take a few glasses of beer home from the brewery.
If you want something larger (128 ounces), consider a mini-keg. They’re not quite as portable as a growler, but you can still fill them with fresh beer to keep it carbonated for long periods of time.
Example of a 128 ounce mini-keg from NutriChef:
A “crowler” is also a reusable 32 ounce beer vessel, but it takes the form of a metal can. These are not as widely used as growlers, but they make pick up in the future. Some filleries are able to take reused (but cleaned) crowlers, fill them with beer, and seal them to keep carbonation in. Then you can drink them like a massive can of beer.
Are Growlers Worth It?
To answer this, consider these questions. Do you love beer? Do you wish you could take beer from your favorite brewery home? Does the waste created when drinking bottles and cans of beer worry you? Growlers might not be for everyone, but if you answered “yes” to these questions, a growler might be just what you need.
They’re fun, they’re environmentally-friendly, and they’re economically-friendly. They are absolutely worth it in our book!