Recently, I came across an article on Draft Magazine (draftmag.com) that stopped me in my tracks, entitled: “Giving Up the Growler” by Zach Fowle. It struck a nerve with me and of course, I was then compelled to read on. You see, I use my growlers all the time. All. The. Freakin’. Time.
The piece opens with: “This is my growler collection. Impressive, isn’t it? Such a varied array of ceramic, metal and glass, gathered through giveaways, birthday gifts and visits to breweries across the country. It’s been years in the making. And today, it’s going in the trash.”
Well, that’s a bit extreme don’t you think?! Why would I ever want to give up all of my beautiful and frequently used growlers? Granted, I have a shit ton of them. More than I really need. But there are some states, like Massachusetts, that have laws stating that breweries are only allowed to fill growlers from their brewery. On my last beercation to MA, I ended up coming home with gobs of growlers from Tree House Brewing Co. They weren’t canning on the day we visited or I would have preferred getting a few 4 packs instead because I wasn’t intending to drink the beer soon. The silver lining is that I now have those growlers to use for return visits. Sweet!
HOORAY FOR CANS!
Now with that said, I do agree that more and more breweries are canning beer for takeout. Beer enthusiasts seem to love this format just as much. I personally, go for cans IF I want to keep the brew for several months. Beer stored in growlers really should be enjoyed within 1-2 weeks IF you follow my growler guidelines later in this post.
The fact that cans are convenient to throw into a cooler full of ice for picnics or anywhere you want to avoid using glass because of breakage, is most appealing. Plus, I love some of the bold, beautiful artwork now being created for beer cans. A work of art! #LabelLove
The Draft Magazine article goes on to say that some breweries prefer selling cans over filling growlers. With cans there is less chance of oxygenation which can change the color and taste of your beer… usually for the worse. With their name on the label, they want the beer to taste the absolute best. And, I get that. I also respect the breweries that have taken this stance. After all, it’s their reputation on the line when a beer is being consumed.
With that said, I have had issues with canned beer having off flavors compared to the draft equivalent. Perhaps they weren’t filled to the top and oxygen was present? Or maybe I kept them too long before drinking? Another theory could be that the cans were exposed to extreme heat before me receiving them. I don’t know. But I will say I’ve dumped tons of cans, all from different breweries all across the country because the beer had a metallic taste, the flavor subdued and the color was darkened. It doesn’t happen always. But it happens enough that I now don’t buy a whole case of cans. Just a 6 or 4 pack. And, I try to drink them within a month or two – especially if the beer is unpasteurized like Heady Topper or Focal Banger.
CROWLERS ARE HERE TO STAY
A 32 oz crowler is another format gaining popularity as noted by Draft Magazine. And, that is absolutely true. No doubt about it. Those big ass cans have really taken a bite out of growler sales.
Crowlers, for some folks, are a more convenient way to bring home large amounts of draft beer for these reasons:
- You don’t have to purchase the container
- No worries about it being chipped or shattered if bumped around
- There’s no cleaning the container after the beer is consumed
- Just toss the can in the recycle bin when finished
I’ve purchased a few crowlers. They’re okay. I’m not knocking their validity. I especially like the “no glass to shatter” aspect. Here’s the thing, though. I have had crowlers that weren’t filled all the way or sealed properly causing oxygenation and flavor degradation to occur. And, there went 32 oz of beer down the drain.
My other issue which may sound weird but here goes: I don’t like the fact that crowler cans get thrown away. Not everyone recycles (If you don’t recycle them, I’m throwing you some serious shade right now!). And, even though I do recycle mine, I feel like it’s such a waste of material. “But, Chelsie, when you recycle, the material gets reused.” I know. I know. It’s a nagging feeling I get. I’d much rather use my 32 oz glass growler with flip top to take a fresh draft beer to a party with friends/family, a bottle sharing event or BYOB restaurant. For me, it’s the “green” thing to do.
USE THE RIGHT GROWLER, PLEASE
Speaking of flip top growlers, let’s talk about the differences between growler tops. Because some keep the beer fresher longer and others completely ruin your beer. I insist on using the flip top kind. You know. The white porcelain cap with red rubber seal that’s connected to the glass container by metal latch.
It will keep the beer fresh for 7+ days IF a counter pressure CO2 filler was used prior to filling with beer. Every brewery I’ve ever visited does this. Also make sure your growler top seal is pliable not dried out and brittle. Otherwise it will let oxygen in and degrade your precious brew.
Filling it up at your local bar? Be careful! They may not using CO2 and you better drink your beer in 1-3 days.
Then there’s the corkscrew cap variety. I don’t recommend these at all. The ONLY time I ever use a cork screw top growler is with the GrowlerGasket like shown here.
It’s an after market cap upgrade which can be purchased from GrowlerGrips. The screw on gasket cap keeps beer fresh for 14-20 days. Seriously, DON’T use the cork screw growlers without a gasket unless you will drink the beer in 2-3 days. Otherwise, oxygen leaks into the bottle through the cap.
DRINK IT AT THE SOURCE
Zach from Draft Magazine goes on to say in his article, “Here’s the best option, though: going to a brewery and enjoying a pint or two, in the place the beer was made, exactly as the brewer intended. If the beer’s really that damn good, you can always come back tomorrow.”
Now that’s something we can agree on! If you really want unadulterated, fresh beer, nothing tastes better than bellying up to the bar and enjoying a glass of draft beer! Preferably a brew that’s just been kegged. Because, yeah, a keg that’s been sitting around for months changes in flavor, too.
A TIME & PLACE FOR GROWLERS
So, let’s agree to NOT get all carried away and throw out our growlers, OK?
Right now my mind just drifted to a scenario where I create a sanctuary for people to send me their unwanted or neglected glass growlers. A place where they can roam free and be appreciated. Not stuffed in a box in a basement or thrown in the garbage truck to be buried alive in a heap of rotting trash.
OK. Now I AM getting a little carried away.
I for one am not giving up on the growler. I do NOT agree that “Growlers are dead.” It’s still my preferred method to take home fresh beer from a brewery or share some of my husband’s kegged homebrew with others.
I keep a growler in both of our vehicles. Then I can never use the excuse that “I forgot my growler so now I must buy a new one for me to bring home this beer in.” Nope. Not gonna happen. I don’t want to take up additional storage space with more growlers. After all, the point is to re-use not keep adding to the collection.
WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THOSE GROWLERS
Maybe you want to organize and make more space in your closets and cabinets so you contemplate getting rid of some of the bazillion pint glasses and growlers. I get that. Here’s alternates to just pitching them.
Find Them a New Home: You could put an ad on Craigslist noting free for pick up, sell them at a yard sale (I do this almost every year. People buy them.) or post a message on Facebook for friends to snag them for free.
Co-Own Them: I am glad that I have growlers from Tree House and Tired Hands. Both will ONLY fill their own branded growlers for take home. My friends and I each have 1-2 from each brewery. We then loan those growlers to each other for beercations or day trips to those breweries. Whoever makes the trip snags the growlers, gets them filled then returns them once emptied.
Water Jugs – Great for fancy but rustic parties and picnics. When chilled, it keeps the water colder, longer on a hot summer day for your guests.
Laundry Detergent Container: you can retire your corkscrew from hauling beer and re-use as a liquid laundry detergent container. Looks much snazzier displayed in your laundry room than those ugly plastic detergent bottles.
I could go on and on with “new use” ideas, but you get the picture. Cheers!
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