Growler 101 – Types to Fill, Benefits & Cleaning
The origin of the term “growler” is the subject of debate, and likely, the true story will never be known. But as the story goes, in the latter half of the 1800’s, growlers referred to metal pails that were used to transport beer from the local tavern to an individual’s home.
There are those who believe the term arose from the sound that the pail’s cover made from the escaping carbon dioxide, while others believed the growling came from another source. The latter belief is that either the bartender or the customer would be responsible for the growling, as the bartender was supposed to fill the half-gallon container with only a pint of beer, while the customer wanted to get a pail that had much more than just a pint. Whichever party was left dissatisfied would “growl” about the issue, hence the very apt term.
There was actually a period of time in which the use of growlers was outlawed, mainly stemming from the fact that children were often sent out to pick up a pail full of beer for their father. This chain of custody issue caused alarm in many of the same types of people who worked in support of prohibition, and the alarm led many cities to outlaw the use of these containers altogether. The growler eventually regained popularity, and the present form of container is among the most widely used for transporting craft beer from its source.
Types of Growlers
Like most beer accessories, there are a few types of growlers that you should be aware of. Knowing the differences between these different types will give you a better idea of which one is right for you.
This is easily the most popular type of growler you will see people walking around with. You can typically buy them in both clear and amber glass. Although, I would personally recommend NOT buying a growler made out of clear glass, as the beer is likely to go bad if it sits in the sun.
One of the benefits of using a glass growler, is that you can see inside of it. This helps during the filling process, as well as give you an idea of how much is left to drink. However, the main downside of glass growlers is that they will crack, chip and/or shatter if you handle them carelessly. Use them with care, and they will take care of you for many years to come.
This type of growler is very popular, as they are easy to carry around and unlikely to break if you drop them. The stainless steel build will help insulate your beer, keeping it cold for you no matter how far you go.
If you are going for a hike or camping with some friends, then a stainless steel growler would be the recommended choice for you. They’re easy to carry around and durable for on-the-go drinking.
The main downside of stainless steel growlers, however, is that you can’t see inside them which may make it somewhat harder to fill, as well as know when you are running low.
This is another popular type of growler, but not my personal favorite. Aesthetically, they look nice, but they can tend to be very heavy to carry around and somewhat difficult to clean. Because you can’t see inside of it, you may have some problems during the filling and cleaning process.
Unfortunately, ceramic growlers are still susceptible to chipping or breaking if dropped or handled carelessly. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should avoid ceramic growlers. They certainly get the job done.
4 Benefits of Growlers
Easy way to transport draft beer
Growlers are incredibly easy to take with you. Despite the many sizes and shapes, most growlers will have a handle for you to carry it by. Even when filled with beer, they’re not too heavy. It’s easy to carry and transport multiple ones at the same time. Since they are air-tight, the beer will remain fresh even when transported.
Instead of trying to offer a description of your new favorite beer, or having to wait until the next time you both can go to the bar or brewery, that beer can be easily transported to your friend’s home so that you all can experience it firsthand.
Bring Home Beer From the Local Brewery
This one depends on the brewery and laws of your area, but one of the best benefits of owning a growler is that you can bring home beer right from the brewery. There’s nothing quite like that first sip of a beer that you got directly from the source. But keep in mind, not every brewery will fill up a growler for you, and those that do may likely have rules they want you to follow. So make sure you call ahead and verify that they will fill it up.
Share your homebrew
As homebrewing continues its rise in popularity, those same brewers will want to share their brew with their friends and family. Obviously, bottling your homebrew is a pretty easy method to share the joy. But what if you don’t want to put in the work of bottling, and instead prefer to keg your beer? Since this is my preferred method, I’ve had to cross this bridge before.
If I want to bring my latest brew to a friend’s house, then I have one of two choices: bottle it or fill up my growler. Because I prefer kegging, filling up one of my growlers is the easiest way for me to transport my brew without completely ruining it.
Tap a New Keg
For bartenders and party hosts alike, beer growlers can serve a very practical and important purpose. When the keg begins to get low, the remaining beer can be put in one or more growlers. This enables a new keg to be tapped, while also ensuring that there is beer still available.
For a bartender, this is especially important, as there will be no gap in service and the keg can be tapped without the stress of waiting customers. For a party host, it may take more time to tap the new keg or there may not be several taps available, so having growlers on hand will ensure that beer is always available to guests.
The Importance of Keeping Your Growler Clean
This should just be common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t clean their growler after using it. If you fill a growler that wasn’t properly cleaned, then you won’t be able to experience the true flavors and aromas that the brewer intended.
In extreme circumstances of uncleanliness, mold and other nasty stuff may start to grow inside your growler. This is a sure bet that what you drink won’t taste right, or even be drinkable at all.
How to Keep Your Growler Clean:
Rinse it Quick:
Directly after you pour the last of your beer, give it a rinse with hot water. If you can rinse it out pretty quickly after it’s finished, then that’s all you really have to do to get it clean and ready for the next fill.
Detergents & Cleansers:
If you let the growler sit for awhile before rinsing it out, then you’ll want to use some sort of cleanser to help get it clean. If you do this, it is wise to not use a fat or oil-based soap. These will make it harder to completely rinse out, possibly leaving residuals behind that will, ultimately, ruin your next fill. If you have any homebrew cleansers sitting around your house, then I would recommend using those.
Consider Using a Brush:
If it’s really nasty inside, then it may be best for you to use a brush to give it a good scrub. A carboy brush or baby-bottle brush will do the trick. However, it is not recommended that you use a brush with metal wires to clean a glass or ceramic growler, as it may damage the container.
Let it Air-Dry:
Now that you’ve cleaned out the inside, it’s best to just let it air dry. I will turn mine upside down and lean it against the wall at an angle to help expedite this process. If you try to dry the inside with a towel, then you will likely leave tiny fibers behind, which will affect the overall quality of your next fill. It would also be a giant pain to try to hand-dry the inside of a growler. So, pack some patience and let it dry on its own.
Depending on where you take it get filled, they should offer to sanitize it for you. If so, take them up on it. Even if you just got done cleaning it out, this extra sanitization will help ensure that you get the best tasting beer. Unfortunately, not all places will offer this to you, so it’s still wise to make sure your growler is clean and ready before you even leave your house. If you do find a place that offers it, then you should continue going back to them, as they clearly know how to handle a growler.