Welcome to Growlers 101. Just as I was several months ago, you may be clueless when it comes to growlers. As in, what the heck is a growler? I first learned about growlers when I received an invitation to a party. In block letters, so I wouldn’t miss the message, it read: BRING YOUR OWN GROWLER.
Did that mean “grumpy date”? Or, perchance, “vicious dog”?
Wrong and wrong again. As I learned then, and you’re about to now, a growler is a jug, Mason jar or even a pail – anything with which you can transport a generous supply of beer.
Why growler? The story goes that, in days of yore, visitors to the local saloon would carry their own private tin pails. They’d pay for a fill (and probably also would enjoy a pint or two while the bartender slowly poured in the brew), and then walk (or meander) home. Supposedly the sound of beer sloshing in a large tin pail makes a growling sound. Hence, the name growler.
But we’ve come a long way, baby, since the days when growlers were used only to transport beer. Now you can fill your family growler with beverages such as cider, kombucha, coffee, soda – basically anything that comes out of a tap. Most places that sell beverages on tap also sell growlers, generally amber glass jugs that are 32 or 64 ounces.
If your town is anything like mine (Portland, Oregon), you have a number of growler fill stations around. Some forward-looking grocery stores (such as Whole Foods) may even have their own growler stations, with beer, cider and wine on tap.
Wine is the new kid on the growler block. Although many wineries have for years been selling wine in bulk on the winery premises, more and more states have laws or are about to pass laws that allow the sale of wine in growlers at off-site winery tasting rooms, wine shops, restaurants and growler fill stations. Many wineries prefer to sell growlers as one-liter or half-liter bottles. Somehow they look more sophisticated than jugs. And-by the way, can someone please come up with a more sophisticated word for a wine growler? Maybe pronounce it grow-LAY?
Now that you know what growlers are and what you can put in them, you’re ready for the best part. Buying beverages in bulk is CHEAP! Well, it’s considerably cheaper than buying the same amount of your favorite beverage in individual glass bottles. Filling a 64-ounce growler with craft beer that’s fresh from the keg will cost as little as $8. Buying a growler will set you back $5 to $10, depending on the purveyor, and you only have to pay for it once.
Wineries report that their wines on tap can go for 20-30% less than what they would charge for the same wines in bottles. It stands to reason: If they’re selling their wines in pressurized stainless steel kegs, they’re saving oodles of money by not having a bottling line, labels, corks and so forth, not to mention the astronomical power demands of a bottling operation. Beer breweries that forego bottling operations are enjoying similar savings.
Now for the part that everybody likes: Growlers are good for the environment. If you use and reuse (after thoroughly washing) just one container for your favorite beverages, think how many cans and bottles you are avoiding having to discard or recycle. Admit it: You’re a saint! You’ve earned another pour from your growler.