Drinking Holes  The Session

The Session #60: WTF is a Growler

Jeremy Short · Feb. 3


The Session is a monthly beer blogging topic. This month's topic comes from Kendall Jones at Washington Beer Blog.

The first time I homebrewed the friend who walked me through the process told me he would pick up a couple growlers beforehand. WTF s a growler, I asked. He replied simply, it's just a glass jug for beer. Oh. Well that's simple enough. And, if homebrew isn't available, there's nothing quite like a fresh beer from a local brewery to enjoy while boiling wort. I loved my first growler and I still do.  

What an odd name. Growler? As I started to consider what I should write about I stated to wonder about that word. I pulled out my Oxford English Dictionary and found this clear definition: "U.S. Slang. A vessel in which beer is fetched". Wow, the term orginated in the US. I wouldn't have guessed that. Now the best part from the OED entry come from a 1888 NY Herald  (29 July): "The employment by hands in a number of factories of boys and girls, under ten and thirteen years, to fetch beer for them, or in other words to rush the growler". How cool is that? I get a couple of things out of this quote. One, factory works drank beer on the job. Two, ten year old boys could buy beer. And, while this is reading in a bit, growlers were a key tool in enjoying beer outside of the bar. This make sense. Bottling wasn't common at the time and there was still a need to have a beer away from the brewery. There's something quite appealing to this little bit of history. In a way I feel that growlers are in a way anachronistic. Growlers require more work than simply buying a six pack. Growlers encourage you to drink your beer quickly otherwise you might spoil the beer or loose carbonation. Growlers are like the LPs of the craft beer world.     

But a lot of people hate them. Like, Garrett Oliver for example. The typical reason for hating growlers is because people don't clean or sanitize them. This is dumb. Seriously, do you  know how easy it is to clean a growler? It's called a dishwasher. Most dishwashers have a "sanitize" cycle which will easily keep your growler nice and fresh. Then there's the problem with clear growlers. Like skunk prone clear bottles, clear growlers will spoil with just a touch of UV light. I agree with this one. Clear growlers are dumb. Don't buy one. Admittedly, a growler may not always be the perfect representation of a brewer's product, but that anachronistic quality is appealing, at least to me. I get to enjoy brewery fresh draft beer in the comfort of my home. What's wrong with that? Nothing. There is nothing wrong with that. Sure a CD player might present music with clear and easily accessible music, but a record player makes you work for the music; makes you pay attention to the music. Yeah, there might be pops and cracks, but that's part of the joy. Growlers are a great way to enjoy beer. Get over it, Garrett.

Now the best part! Growlers are an excellent way to share homebrew. Since I keg my homebrew it can be a pain to bring my beer to other people's homes. A growler makes it easy to bring 64 oz. of homebrew anywhere. And a high quality growler with a rubber locking lid (the kind in the graphic above) can keep your beer fresh for quite some time. I've stored beer in my growler for over a week and it's just as fresh as the day i filled it.

What are you waiting for? Go to a local brewery and get a growler fill!


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