We’ve all been there: There’s a new beer released from a brewery, or a new brewery opening up, so we rush down and fill up a growler. We then go home where we pour out the first glass. So good. Second glass? Not bad. Third? Passable. Fourth? Flat and kinda off.
When you think about it, it’s not that great of an experience, and yet, a few days, weeks, months down the road and you’re back in the same cycle.
We think it’s a good deal, so we jump in. Unfortunately you have to consider the equivalent purchase from the brewer’s side of things. You’re basically taking what would be a pitcher of beer from the pub, putting it in a bottle and stirring it up in the process, taking it home where you will open the bottle and let air in, pour out some beer, close it, open it later and let more air in, pour out some beer, and so on and so forth. Temperature control is questionable, exposure to outside contaminants is likely, and yet we fawn over this beer.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when a growler is appropriate. If you’re having it all in one evening, if you’re sharing with friends right away, as long as it isn’t sitting for too long. You wouldn’t drink a pitcher of beer that sat overnight, so why do the same with a growler?
There are some solutions to the problems listed above. Technology plays a role in a lot of ways to improve your growler experience, but it also means letting go of that 64 ounce glass bottle.
First and easiest to control: Age. Less beer means you go through it faster, and it has less time to spoil. Half-Growlers, Meowlers, Mini-Growlers, Howlers, Growlettes, or whatever you call a 32 oz growler, are the better choice. Still more beer than a 650 ml bomber, and usually a better deal, these allow you to get the fresh beer you want, and not the stale beer you don’t.
Second: Temperature. Double walled steel growlers and vacuum growlers at least keep your temperature closer to consistent, allowing you to get it from the filling station to your home or ultimate destination without exposing the beer to too much temperature shock. This keeps oxidation flavours at bay, and keeps the beer fresher, longer.
Third, and most important: Air. When a bottle or can gets filled, it’s capped on foam. Capping on foam means the beer is actually overflowing from the container before it gets capped, making sure that only carbon dioxide is making contact with the beer. Kegs are purged and filled with carbon dioxide before they’re filled with beer. Air is one of the worst things you can have come in contact with your beer. It makes it taste like wet cardboard, and, unless you’re really into wet cardboard, is just not something you want to drink.
A few new high-tech growlers have started to hit the market in recent years, and the major feature of them is the ability to purge the air or use carbon dioxide chargers to maintain the air free environment in the growler. These work similar to kegs, having the pressurized container push the beer out a secondary tap. These are still quite expensive, so be prepared to pay if this is the option you go with.
Ultimately, growlers aren’t a bad idea, but the situation you use it in has to be appropriate, otherwise you’re not showing respect for the beer you’re drinking. With a few simple adjustments, and a little forethought, you can make sure your growler experience is what the brewer intended and the beer deserves.