Love Your Growler? The Brewers Hate Them!…

Do you love your growler??  Do you love it so much you have more than one? Well that love is pretty universal among beer geeks, with the exception of the most unlikely of haters.  I’m talking about brewers.  By and large they hate serving their beer in growlers because of one thing… quality control.  In an article published by Bon Appetit, Garett Oliver  the Head Brewer at Brooklyn Brewery discusses his disgust for the much beloved vessels.

When you are a Head Brewer, your whole life is about control.  You control the temperature, you control the amount and type of yeast, you control when what kind, and how many hops are added, some even control the roasting and mashing of the malt.  Yes, the control freak has found a true calling if he or she ends up being a brewer.  Pubs, however are a little dicey, see you begin to loose control.  You can’t possibly control everything if you have a pub attached to your brewery.  You can’t control the cooks, you can’t control the patrons, and you can’t control what happens to your beer when it leaves the pub in a growler, GRRR!

In his own words Garett says about growlers:

It’s  a love-hate relationship, Brewers love the opportunity to get some beers that are not in bottles in front of a general public, and certainly beer drinkers love them.

But brewers tend to hate them. Growlers are basically beer destroyers. They’re often unsanitary, and the refilling process mixes in a lot of oxygen–the tiniest amount of oxygen kills beer so quickly. Then, if you walk across the street with say, an IPA, in full sunlight, with a clear growler, the beer will skunk before you get to your car.

That quickly? That quickly! For the brewer, this is like if you went to a nice restaurant, ordered something great, and then took the beautifully presented plate of food, scraped it into a bag, put that bag in the fridge for 3 days, microwaved it, and then based your opinion of that restaurant on your bag of old food.

So there you have one highly respected brewer’s take on many people’s vessel of choice.  He was asked whether it is ok to use a growler if you  drink the beer quickly, like within a day or two, and he agreed that if all other conditions are good, and you drink the beer within a couple of days that is fine, and growlers work well, but he also know that life can get in the way.  You end up going to that soccer game or carting the kids to an unexpected birthday party then before you know it the beer is 3 or 4 days old and has begun to turn.  He hates that. Again it is a control issue.  If he pours you a beer in a glass you have to drink it before you leave, but fill a growler and all bets are off.

So what are some Growler Do’s and Don’ts?

1)  Make sure your growlers are clean!

2)  Don’t use clear growlers for beer.

3) Drink the beer within a day or two of filling.

4) Don’t leave it in your car for extended periods.

5) Pop that thing into the fridge ASAP.

If you follow these simple guidelines the beer you take home should be as good as having it at the pub.  So what do you think?  To Growl or not to Growl…That is the question.

-Don

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44 Comments on “Love Your Growler? The Brewers Hate Them!…”

  1. November 8, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Hmmm…..tough question. I’d want to fill it with something that mostly I drink, not my husband (fancy Belgian, etc.). But I only have one or maybe two glasses of beer in a night. So half of the growler would probably go bad before I got to it. On the other hand, if I’m having people over, I think it would be a good thing to have if I picked it up the day before or the day of.

    • Don
      November 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

      You have put your finger on the reason that I don’t own a growler. I’m really the only beer drinker in my house, so if I buy a growler at least half the thing gets wasted. I am really excited however, because my bottle shop is importing a brand new growler filler. This is the kind that pumps the O2 out of the growler before it fills, so it can last up to 2 weeks in the fridge before you open it. They are also getting in some one and a half quart size growlers! I’m really looking forward to this.Small growlers that are filled like they were on a bottling line! Win win!

  2. John King
    November 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Bear Growler > Beer Growler.

    • Don
      November 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

      I thought of you John, every time I wrote Growler! Thanks for this… 😉

      • John King
        November 8, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

        So im writing a blog post about you guys and the new beer I brewed. I named it after you. I googled bourbon bears. Whoops. http://www.kentuckybourbonbears.com/

        • Don
          November 8, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

          So Bourbon Bear Stout?

  3. November 8, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    I’m heading up to Sierra Nevada tonight and you can bet I’ll be coming home with a growler! As a homebrewer my growler is probably a bit cleaner than the average Joe. I Oxyclean and sanitize my growler with StarSan. Can’t be too careful with that half gallon of deliciousness.

    On another note I’m all for blogs reposting articles from other sources and you did a great job of adding your own thoughts to the discussion, but I’m not so sure about also using their photo. You should probably put up your own image.

    • Don
      November 8, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

      Sounds like you take good care of your beer in growlers! Good job Matt. As for the pic, that is why I didn’t lead with it on the front page or on Facebook, and I accredited the author. But your point is duly noted. Thanks.

  4. November 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    I can understand the brewers’ perspective, but I think growlers are great, as long as you know to consume the beer within a couple of days. I know that Avery does not allow growler fills in their tap room, but I think that’s a little much. The only way for brewers to truly have control over the handling of their beer would be to oversee every single step of the distribution process, which is highly unrealistic. Even if the beer is stored and shipped cold all the way to the store, there is no way to ensure that some flunky will leave it out in a sunny spot for a few hours, or that the consumer will leave it in the trunk of their car for a day.

    A friend brought down a couple of growlers from the Odell tap room a few weeks ago and it was a real treat to have Myrcenary fresh from the tap, which is noticeable better than from the bottle. Let your customers make their own informed choices.

    • Don
      November 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

      You are making every control freak’s sphincter pucker with your comment. 😉

  5. John King
    November 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    In all honesty, the beer doesn’t stay in my growler less than an hours. It’s just a carrying vessel. Pish Posh.

    • Don
      November 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

      I just can’t drink that much beer in one sitting. SO it would at a minimum be two days, and I think I would probably end up throwing out a lot of beer if I used growlers.

      • John King
        November 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

        I generally just get a growler for myself. 😦

        • Don
          November 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

          I think George Thorogood has a song about that.

  6. November 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    Three Floyds skirts their love/hate relationship by offering growlers – with a catch. They sell growlers at their brewpub, but they do not offer refills. If you want to buy beer from the brewpub drafts, you buy a new growler.They say it’s to maintain quality control over the product, which falls in line with your post! So I own a couple of cases of FFF growlers!

    • November 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

      That sounds like a terrible deal for the customer unless the brewery is eating the cost of the growler. Growlers are already really expensive when you break it down to six pack cost. I have an app that takes any beer vessel size and price and breaks it down to six pack equivalent. For example, a $10 64oz growler fill is equivalent to a $11.25 six pack.

      • November 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

        Most six packs from Floyds cost $10-13 retail. So that’s on par with the price points of packaged beer.

    • Don
      November 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

      That defeats the purpose of the growler in the first place! If you just want a bunch of beer to bring home buy some bombers or something. If you can’t get them refilled you are just wasting the vessel. That isn’t a very “green” approach.

      • November 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

        True, but they want to be able to sell limited release brews without bottling and the demand is there. The case I’ve accumulated has been over the course of 5 years traveling to and from Chicago. We stop at Floyds for lunch and grab a growler for the hotel or on the way home! It negates the quality control issue of dirty growlers and it’s Floyds. They’ll do whatever they want and we’ll bow to it.

  7. November 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    Duh.

    • Don
      November 8, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

      Thanks Zac! I can always count on you for the most insightful comments. 😦

  8. November 8, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    Victory does it right:

    • Don
      November 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

      This is similar to the system that Brewforia is getting, although theirs will only do 4 beers, not 20!

  9. DaveSDC
    November 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    I love my growler(s) and they are painfully kept sanitary on my end. Especially when one of them kicks.

    Just a sidenote here, but has anyone been keeping up with the Zythos Project? They are the gentleman that are making the Brauler growler. Supposively a big east coast brewery jumped on board to carry there growlers. You can only get them wholesale at the moment, and only if your a brewery, but I certainly can’t wait for someone around me to carry them. I would pick 2 up in a heartbeat.

    • Don
      November 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

      I read about them, Dave. I found their system very intriguing too. I too would own one or two of them if they were available retail. Hope they come out soon.

    • November 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

      Yes! The Brauler growler looks amazing. I’m on the lookout but haven’t seen any yet. Does pinning it on Pinterest count? (that sentence probably made sense to the ladies)

  10. Greg
    November 8, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    Sure, love my growlers. I usually fill a few off my kegs to bring to parties. I’ve bought some in stores and breweries and never had a problem, but they also don’t hang around very long. It takes me two nights to drink one, one night if I get started early. 🙂

    • Don
      November 8, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

      I think that the clientele that frequents this blog are not the ones Garett Oliver is worried about. It is the Newb that gets a growler and decides to pour himself a glass a night until it is gone! By the time he finishes he is drinking crap, and that is what sticks in his brain.

  11. Chris
    November 8, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    Every time I see that article I get angry. Brewers don’t hate growlers…Garret Oliver Hates Growlers. And the author of that article used Garret Oliver’s words to speak for the entire beer industry.

    Many small brewers fully depend on growlers for their livelihood. Bottling/Canning lines are expensive, and when just starting out, it’s very affordable to invest in a proper cleaning system and CO2 counter-pressure filler for growlers. Then, instead of filling “grubby” growlers, you just exchange the customer’s growler for a clean, sanitized, properly filled growler from your fridge. Easy as that.

    Unless your potential customers go to a bar and drink on tap (in which case, who’s to say the tap lines are clean, or the glassware is properly cleaned)…then you have no way of getting your beer into the publics hands. Enter growlers. They are fantastic. I love them…all brewers and breweries I know love them…Garret Oliver doesn’t speak for the industry.

    • Don
      November 8, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

      Good point Chris. I went along with the author in his stating that this is an industry wide thought, but clearly it is not. Still think it is interesting that Garett Oliver is so adamantly opposed, and based upon some of the other comments so are some other brewers like Three Floyds and Avery. 3 Floyds will only sell you prefilled growlers and will not refill them, and Avery has a no growlers at all policy, so clearly while he might be in the minority, he is in good company.

  12. November 8, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    We have a couple of growlers that we’ll take with us if we’re going to a brewery that we haven’t been to for awhile and want to get a brew that we rarely have the chance to drink. Both of our growlers are dark glass; I actually haven’t seen a clear glass one from anywhere around here for a number of years.

    Nearly every Colorado brewery I’ve been in during the past year has a sanitizer that the server will use on the growler before they fill it. I’ve even seen some places refuse to fill a growler because it wasn’t clean enough.

    I don’t know who Garett Oliver is talking about when he references “most brewers” not liking growlers, the majority of brewers I’ve talked to love growlers.

    • Don
      November 8, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

      Clearly many do, but also some very influential ones do not. Just based on the comments in this post not only does GO not like them, but 3 Floyds, and Avery. Two other very influential breweries. So clearly it is a hit and miss situation.

  13. November 8, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    I have yet to use a growler, and because I usually only drink one beer a night, probably won’t start.

    However, your discussion brought things to mind for me: 1) growlers were really in their hey day when families drank beer instead of water–even the kids; and 2) those growlers were ceramic, i.e., opaque.

    So, my take on the issue is if your or your family can polish off a growler in a cupla days, then its a worthwhile investment; and if use use an opaque growler, light won’t be an issue. In re this last, an enterprising brewer could probably get quite an edge by reintroducing ceramic growlers.

    • Don
      November 8, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

      I thought I saw some on the internet already Wayne. I can’t remember the link otherwise I’d post it, but if I recall correctly they were in the $90 to $130 range. A bit spendy for something I will most likely break. 😦

      • November 8, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

        It could be your first B&WB product. I’m sure there are some enterprising potters out there looking for work and a bit of free advertising. You could probably cut a good deal.

  14. Joe
    November 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    I just got a 6 gallon keg of Dogfish Head 60 Min IPA and fresh of the delivery truck to the store I bought it from it was around 85 degrees, not even refrigerated a little bit…Got it home to my kegerator and it is just fine now.

  15. November 28, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    grrrrrr … to growl for sure!! if you’re worried about using a clear growler, just use a cozy or growler tote. it will protect it from the sunlight. these handmade ones are pretty cool:

    http://blackfootriverbrewing.com/2011/11/handmade-growler-totes/
    http://www.etsy.com/shop/emeHANDMADE

  16. December 8, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    On the rare occasion that we have not been able to polish off a growler in a day or two I have found other uses for the beer. Most often we use it for cooking. Boil brats, use it in bread, beer can chicken, chili, etc.
    If you have a garden you can use the old beer to make some really high-end slug traps, too!

    • December 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

      If you’re feeding it to the slugs, you’re doing it wrong!

      But that does expalin why they’re lined up outside my back door – they’re hunting for beer!

  17. October 5, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    I think the BeerPouch would be a good solution for your consideration http://beerpouch.webstarts.com The 64.oz Flexible Growler does not allow airspace. When you have no air, you have greatly reduced oxygen exposure. Keep them cold. Enjoy!

    • February 18, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

      The BeerPouch Flexigrowler is a great solution.

    • May 15, 2013 at 12:19 am #

      I saw this and it looks like that beerpouch is gaining a lot of popularity.

  18. Centennial Beverages
    March 7, 2013 at 2:09 am #

    We first tried these Beer pouches this fall and we think they are awesome! Now our customers can’t get enough of them and sales are increasing as the word gets out. Right now, we are the only ones in our area using them, and we LOVE it, but we know that can’t last forever. Because of the low wholesale cost, brewers are falling in love with these pouches as much as the drinkers have.

  19. Steven Margolis
    November 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    There is now (coming out in May 2015, but currently available in a pre-sale through Kick-start https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/growlerwerks/the-ukegtm-pressurized-growler-for-fresh-beer?ref=home_popular) u-Keg which is a stainless steel 64 oz or 128 oz CO2 pressurized growler. It’s like having your own micro-keg with your favorite micro-brew. While they are a bit pricey ($99 for the 64 oz. and $129 for the 128 oz.), to have my favorite microbrew on tap in my fridge, to me it is worth it. (I have funded their project by pre-buying a 128 oz. u-Keg…I can’t wait!)

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