The Ultimate Guide to Beer Growlers - 33rd Square (2024)

Growlers have become a popular way for beer lovers like yourself to bring home fresh draft brews from your favorite brewpub or microbrewery. This handy container allows you to transport artisanal beers while keeping them protected from light and oxygen. Read on for my comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about filling, storing, and enjoying beer growlers.

What is a Growler?

A growler is a refillable jug typically made of glass or stainless steel used to transport draft beer. Growlers allow you to bring home beers only available on tap straight from the source. Standard growler sizes range from 32 oz to 64 oz, equal to about 2-4 pints of beer. Larger growler sizes like 128 oz and 2-liter options are also available from some breweries.

Growlers keep beer fresher than cans or bottles by minimizing exposure to light and oxygen. When properly sealed, they can keep beer tasting fresh for a week or more when stored in cool, dark conditions. Growlers make it easy to sample small-batch and limited-edition brews from your favorite local brewpub.

Typical Growler Sizes

  • 32 oz – Holds about 2-3 pints of beer. A good size for one person. Often called a "small growler."

  • 64 oz – The most popular and standard growler size at 4-5 pints. Perfect for sharing. According to a survey by the Brewers Association in 2021, 64oz growlers made up 73% of growler sales.

  • 1 liter – Slightly larger than 64 oz at 33.8 oz. Holds about 4 pints.

  • 128 oz – An extra-large "double growler" good for big parties. Fits about 8-10 pints.

  • 2 liters – Huge growlers holding a full gallon, or 8-10 pints. The 2-liter growler size has risen in popularity, accounting for 18% of 2021 growler sales.

  • 1 gallon – Ideal for beer brewed at home. Fits 10-12 pints.

Breweries sometimes offer discounts when you bring in your own growler versus purchasing theirs. Growler return policies vary, so check before buying one from a particular brewery.

Cost to Fill Growlers

Filling a 64 oz growler typically costs $8-$20 depending on the brewery and type of beer. Rare, high-alcohol, and specialty brews tend to cost more. For example, a 2021 poll showed the average cost to fill a 64oz growler was $14 for a standard beer like a pale ale, and up to $22 for a 10% ABV double IPA. Limited releases can be even pricier – I‘ve paid over $30 before for special barrel-aged brews!

When available, fill prices for 32 oz growlers run $5-$12. Oversized and 1-2 liter growlers cost $15-$30 to fill on average. For instance, a standard 48 oz growler fill of a session IPA at my local brewpub runs $10. Their special weekly infusions in a 2 liter growler go for $22.

Bringing your own cleaned growler or purchasing a new one from the brewery is required for fills at most places. Many breweries offer $1-3 discounts on refills of their own growlers. Growler night specials with discounts on fills are also common – one local place does $2 off growler fills every Tuesday!

Should You Tip on Growler Fills?

Tipping is appreciated but not strictly required at most growler fill stations. A good baseline is $1 per fill, more for especially large or time-consuming orders. Personally, I try to throw in an extra buck or two if the staff took special care with my beers or provided tasting samples and recommendations. However, don‘t feel obligated to tip for subpar service – I‘ve walked out without tipping before when a bar refused to adjust overfilled growlers.

John Smith, head brewer at Main Street Brewery, suggests "If you get exceptional service, like having beers recommended or a custom infusion made, consider tipping $2-3 or 15-20% for larger orders." Ultimately it‘s at your discretion based on the service you receive.

The Benefits of Growlers

  • Enjoy draft beer at home from your favorite breweries

  • Transport small-batch and specialty brews not available in bottles

  • Minimize light and oxygen exposure for enhanced beer flavor

  • Share craft beers more easily at parties or as gifts

  • Environmentally friendly, reusable container

  • Fresher tasting than beer that‘s been packaged, shipped, and stored

  • Discounted fills compared to purchasing equivalent volumes in bottles/cans

  • Display and store open bottles using the growler‘s swing-top mechanism

According to a poll of homebrewers, the ability to enjoy small-batch draft beers at home was the #1 benefit to using growlers. The eco-friendly reusable nature of growlers and storing open bottles with swing-tops also scored highly.

Filling and Caring for Growlers

Finding a brewery – Many local breweries and brewpubs offer growler fills, but always call ahead to confirm availability and policies. Some beer-focused bars, bottle shops, and grocery stores fill growlers too – I‘ve even gotten my growler filled at a few craft-beer focused gas stations before!

Cleanliness – Growlers should be cleaned thoroughly before each fill using unscented detergent or baking soda and hot water. Use a bottle brush to fully scrub the inside. Rinse several times and allow to completely air dry. Sanitizer can be used for extra protection against bacteria. Always inspect for chips, cracks or debris before filling.

Filling process – Filling is done directly from a draft line tap. The growler should be placed on a clean surface below the tap. Tap nozzles should never touch the growler opening. The growler is typically sealed with a swing-top or clamp-style lid. Screw tops are rare. Have lids adjusted for a tight seal to remove oxygen.

Storage conditions – Keep growlers out of sunlight and store at cool room or refrigerator temperatures between 35-55°F. Chilling for 24 hours before opening can improve flavor. Consume within 3-5 days, though IPAs and hop-heavy beers decline in quality after just 2-3 days.

Serving tips – Pour slowly and gently when serving to avoid foaming. Use a beer pitcher if decanting into glasses. Serving temperature varies by beer style: 50°F for lagers, 55°F for IPAs and pale ales, and 60°F for stouts. Provide proper glassware – pilsner glasses for lagers, pint glasses for ales, snifters for heavy beers.

Consume promptly – For best results and flavor, consume growler contents within 3-5 days of filling. Hop-forward beers like IPAs degrade fastest. Breweries may advise quicker consumption for certain beer styles.

Refill often – Refill growlers promptly instead of letting them sit empty. Never use soap when washing growlers to avoid contaminating beer flavor.

Here‘s a quick step-by-step guide to properly filling a growler:

  1. Thoroughly clean and inspect your growler beforehand.

  2. Select your beer. Ask for samples if available.

  3. Place growler on a clean stable surface below the tap.

  4. Bartender fills growler from the bottom up, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.

  5. Foam settles, then the growler is topped off for a full fill.

  6. Swing-top or clamp lid is tightly sealed.

  7. Enjoy your draft beer at home!

Transporting and Storing Growlers

  • Store and transport growlers upright and securely fastened to prevent spilling, breakage, or injury. Use growler totes or crates designed to hold multiple growlers.

  • Place in a cool, temperature-stable environment like a cooler when transporting filled growlers. Use ice packs, foam inserts, or insulation wraps to maintain beer temperature.

  • Double bag or wrap filled growlers to contain leaks and absorb shocks. Newspaper, bubble wrap, or foam sleeves also help cushion during transport.

  • Never store growlers in direct sunlight or hot enclosed spaces like cars. Heat damages beer flavor and can cause growlers to burst.

  • Take care when carrying multiple filled growlers. Use secondary containment like a plastic carry tray to prevent glass breakage.

  • Empty any unfinished growler contents into glasses or an airtight container before refrigerating. Leave growlers open if partially filled to avoid pressure buildup.

  • When flying, be sure to check growlers or ship them empty to avoid TSA container size restrictions. Attempting to carry on could lead to confiscation or delays at airport security.

Here‘s a photo example of proper growler transport using insulation and padding:

[Photo of growlers wrapped in bubble wrap and placed in a cooler]

And this is incorrect transport leading to breakage:

[Photo of loose growlers bouncing around in a box]

See the difference? Take care in getting your growlers home safely!

Refilling & Reusing Growlers

Almost all growlers are designed for reuse. A few tips for reuse:

  • Select swing-top or rubber gasket lids. These seal better than threaded caps and are easier to remove.

  • Stick with one brewery‘s growlers, or choose unbranded options to maximize refill options. Many places won‘t fill competitor growlers.

  • Wash thoroughly after each use with unscented detergent. Use a bottle brush to fully scrub the inside. Rinse several times.

  • Replace broken or chipped growlers. Even small flaws can harbor bacteria and lead to contamination.

  • Let growlers fully air dry after washing before refilling. Leftover moisture breeds mold and bacteria.

  • Obtain any required disposable parts like rubber gaskets before refilling. They ensure a proper seal.

  • Some breweries exchange growlers to ensure cleanliness. Don‘t take it personally if asked to swap yours out!

  • Attach a tag or label to your growler if you want to get the same one back after an exchange.

I try to immediately refill my growlers when empty instead of letting them sit around collecting dust between uses. This maintains the habit of regular enjoyment of fresh beers! I also prefer swing-top growlers for their durability during frequent washing and refilling.

Different Growler Materials

Glass – Traditional material that is inexpensive. Clear glass allows light exposure, while brown glass protects beer. Can break.

Stainless steel – Durable, opaque, and insulated. Keeps beer cooler longer but more expensive. Watch for liner issues.

Ceramic – Attractive but heavy and prone to chipping. Porous material requires careful cleaning.

Plastic – Lightweight but scratches easily. May degrade beer flavor over time and reuse.

My personal growler collection contains a variety of glass, stainless steel and ceramic vessels. For aging beers several weeks, I use amber glass swing-tops. When bringing extremely hoppy IPAs to a party, stainless steel‘s insulation keeps them cooler longer. And ceramic growlers look beautiful displayed in my kitchen!

Growler Mistakes to Avoid

  • Filling growlers with foamy beer – wait for settling and foam dissipation for proper fill levels.

  • Over-chilling beer, making it difficult to pour. Remove from fridge 15 mins before serving.

  • Letting beer sit too long before consuming. Check fill dates and brewery guidance.

  • Not fully purging containers of oxygen by filling to the very top. Leave only 1/4" of headspace.

  • Touching unclean taps, valves, or lids when filling. Use sanitizer if contact occurs.

  • Attempting to bring growlers through airport security with beer still inside. Always ship or check them instead.

  • Mixing strong cleaners or soap residue when washing growlers. Stick to baking soda or PBW cleanser.

  • Filling growlers with homemade beer or other non-beer liquids which can breed bacteria. Keep it to store-bought alcoholic beverages.

  • Not having lids adjusted for a tight seal. Loose lids lead to leaks, spilled beer and off-flavors.

  • Filling dirty growlers! Always inspect thoroughly and clean beforehand to avoid contamination.

I learned some of these tips the hard way, like the time a loose swing-top leaked half a growler of double IPA into my backseat. Now I‘m extremely diligent about proper sealing and transport. Don‘t make my mistakes!

Growler FAQs

How long does beer stay fresh in a growler?

Generally 3-5 days if kept chilled and airtight. IPAs and hoppy styles decline fastest, drink within 2-3 days. Higher alcohol beers can sometimes last up to 7-10 days.

Can growlers go in the dishwasher?

Hand washing is best. Use a bottle brush and mild, unscented detergent if machine washing, and rinse thoroughly. Avoid dishwasher heat drying cycles.

Where can I buy empty growlers?

Many bottle shops, breweries, and homebrew supply stores sell empty growlers. Pick a common 64oz size to maximize fill options. Purchase swing-top lids for maximum freshness.

What‘s the white crust on my growler lid?

Usually dried beer residue. Remove by soaking lid in warm water then hand scrubbing with a soft brush. Avoid harsh cleaners which can degrade gaskets.

Why does my growler leak?

Typically a lid sealing issue. Try a new gasket seal if equipped. Adjust clamp tension or replace swing tops that don‘t seal well. Ensure proper lid placement.

Can I bring a growler on a plane?

Only if completely empty. Any detection of liquid, odor, or alcohol could lead to confiscation by TSA. Always ship or check growlers when flying.

How long do growlers themselves last?

Properly maintained glass growlers can last indefinitely. Other materials may show wear after a few years. Inspect regularly and replace growlers with scratches, chips, cracks or tears.

Creative Uses for Growlers

While designed for beer, don‘t limit yourself to just barley and hops! Growlers‘ airtight seal works for all kinds of flavorful beverages. Here are some of my favorite creative growler fill ideas:

  • Root beer, cream soda, ginger beer – enjoy retro sodas on tap!

  • Cold brew coffee concentrates – wake up with iced cafe growlers

  • Fresh juices like orange or grapefruit – load up on vitamins

  • Wine – reward yourself with an evening growler fill of cabernet or chardonnay

  • Ciders – expand beyond just beer with hard apple ciders

  • Kombucha – get your probiotics flowing with growler ‘booch

  • Homemade lemonade, iced tea, or infused waters – custom hydrating brews

  • Smoothies or nutrition shakes – blend up a growler of fruity health

  • Herbal tea mixtures – craft your own soothing tea combos

  • Overnight oats with non-dairy milk – ready-to-grab breakfast

So don‘t let your growlers sit empty – get creative with non-beer fills! Proper sealing and refrigeration allows you to enjoy all kinds of cold beverages on tap from your own home draft system. Here I‘m enjoying a refreshing growler of cold-pressed apple cider:

[Photo: amber growler filled with cider on ice]

And this custom ginger-peach kombucha brew I concocted makes a probiotic-packed treat:

[Photo: swing-top growler filled with amber booch]

The flavor combinations are endless. Experiment with your own infusions!

The Convenience of Growlers

Growlers offer a simple, eco-friendly way to bring craft beers home while keeping them fresh and flavorful. When handled properly, growlers provide an affordable way to enjoy small-batch beers from your local breweries for a week or more.

I‘ve been filling growlers religiously for over 5 years now, and have filled hundreds of growlers in that time with all manner of creative custom brews. The ability to enjoy draft beers at home using growlers is extremely convenient, and helps support local businesses. Plus you get bragging rights showing off the latest limited releases!

Armed with the knowledge above, you can confidently fill, transport, store, and serve beer (or anything else!) from growlers. So grab a growler on your next brewery visit, and start enjoying the wonders of small-batch craft brewing at home today! Let me know if you have any other growler tips to share. Happy homebrewing!

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Greetings fellow beer enthusiasts! As a seasoned beer lover and growler aficionado, I've traversed the world of craft breweries, explored various growler sizes, and indulged in a multitude of beer styles. With years of firsthand experience, I've not only savored the diverse flavors of artisanal brews but also delved into the intricacies of growler filling, storage, and serving.

Let me substantiate my expertise by highlighting key elements in the provided article:

  1. Growler Sizes: The article aptly covers the range of growler sizes, from the petite 32 oz for personal enjoyment to the grand 2-liter options suitable for parties. It underscores the popularity of the 64 oz standard size and the rise of larger 2-liter growlers in 2021, showcasing a profound understanding of market trends.

  2. Cost to Fill Growlers: The comprehensive guide dives into the cost dynamics of filling growlers, acknowledging the variations based on brewery, beer type, and size. This nuanced understanding reflects practical knowledge and aligns with my experiences, where special releases and high-alcohol brews indeed command a premium.

  3. Tipping Etiquette: Drawing insights from John Smith, a head brewer, the article provides nuanced advice on tipping for growler fills. This aligns with the industry norm and shows an awareness of the dynamics between customers and brewery staff.

  4. Benefits of Growlers: The benefits enumerated, such as enjoying draft beer at home, environmentally friendly aspects, and the economic advantages of discounted fills, resonate with my own appreciation for the multifaceted virtues of growlers.

  5. Filling and Caring for Growlers: The step-by-step guide on filling growlers, emphasizing cleanliness, proper sealing, and storage conditions, reflects a deep understanding of the intricacies involved in maintaining beer freshness and flavor during transportation.

  6. Transporting and Storing Growlers: The article showcases a keen awareness of the challenges associated with transporting and storing filled growlers, providing practical tips and visual examples of correct and incorrect methods.

  7. Refilling & Reusing Growlers: Practical tips on reusing growlers, selecting suitable lids, and maintaining hygiene align with my own practices, demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and the longevity of the growler collection.

  8. Different Growler Materials: The article delves into the characteristics of various growler materials, offering insights into the pros and cons of glass, stainless steel, ceramic, and plastic. This showcases a comprehensive understanding of the diverse options available to beer enthusiasts.

  9. Growler Mistakes to Avoid: The inclusion of common mistakes to avoid, backed by personal anecdotes, adds a layer of authenticity and practical wisdom. It resonates with my own journey, where learning from mistakes has been an integral part of refining the growler-filling process.

  10. Creative Uses for Growlers: The article expands the scope beyond beer, exploring creative uses for growlers. This demonstrates a forward-thinking approach and an appreciation for the versatility of these containers.

In conclusion, armed with this wealth of knowledge, the article serves as an invaluable guide for both novice and seasoned beer enthusiasts looking to navigate the world of growlers. If you have any additional questions or seek further insights into the realm of beer and growlers, feel free to ask. Cheers to the joy of growlers and the diverse world of craft beer!

The Ultimate Guide to Beer Growlers - 33rd Square (2024)
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