A Growling Half Gallon

In the past few weeks I have been reintroduced to the growler.  As I recently noted, breweries have begun to grow like weeds in the metropolitan DC area.  All these new breweries are small operations, some considered to be microbreweries.  Understandably, these enterprises have limited resources with which to market and distribute their brews.  Outside of a few restaurants or specialty grocery stores, the brewery itself is often the only place to most easily obtain their product.

Enter my recent rediscovery of the growler, those half gallon jugs most commonly found in smaller breweries and brewpubs.  Their frequent appearance in these settings should not have come as a surprise to me.  Growlers were originally used by breweries lacking the space to store their beer in wooden barrels.  As compared to barrels, growlers were more easily transportable and were an excellent container for brewers producing small quantities of beer at a time, just like many of DC’s newly minted breweries.

These modern, local breweries beginning production on a small scale – like those breweries established in the early 1900s – make growlers just as useful and convenient today as they were a century ago.  Port City Brewery and Mad Fox Brewing Company, two such breweries I’ve recently visited, both make their fantastic and freshly available beer available in growlers.  Port City prefers the screw top bottle while Mad Fox’s bottle uses the hinged gasket cap.  Regardless of style, it’s not only microbreweries that understand growlers’ new found utility and popularity: Wegmans and Whole Foods, two high end grocery chains also offer their own growlers that can be filled with a variety of local and regional beer selections.

The economics of growlers benefit both producer and consumer alike.  Breweries can distribute their beer directly from kegs and decrease bottling and packaging costs.  Consumers receive fresh beer straight from the source and pay substantially less for a growler of beer than an ordinary six pack.  Generally speaking, the bottle itself costs $6 to $12 dollars, with refills running around $8.   Regardless of where you bought your growler, you usually refill it wherever you like; and because growlers are reusable, they pay for themselves after only a few refills.  Even environmentalists can cheer for that.

My favorite growler fact: its built in immediacy.  Beer insider a growler will only last about a week.  So I’d better get drinking because it’s a shame to waste good beer.  And remember, growler instructions are easy:  just drink, rinse, and repeat.

Published in: on February 19, 2011 at 11:45 pm  Comments (3)  
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