I still remember the first growler I ever saw, perched atop one of the fridges at PK in Prague, a mammoth bottle sporting a swing top, capable of holding 2 litres of beer and with Svijany branding on the side. Given that pubs serving my favourite beers were but a few steps from my front door, I never bothered with a growler, though I often saw people in PK filling PET bottles with beer to take home. Only once do I recall someone coming in with a džbán - basically a traditional ceramic jug used for taking beer home from the pub for dinner, the kind of task in more civilised times you would send the kids to do.
On moving to the States, I got a job working in the tasting room at the Starr Hill brewery, where you can still find me one day a month behind the bar, talking a lot and being asked where in Australia, South Africa (?!) or even Canada I am from. Seriously, nobody ever seems to get that I am British, I know my accent is all over the place but even just ten minutes listening to the World Service will put you on the right island. Admittedly my habit of muttering to myself in Czech may be a bit off putting. Anyway, we sell a lot of growlers, and we fill even more.
I now have three growlers, the Blue Mountain Brewery one in the pictures, and a couple of Starr Hill ones, which have a metal handle that makes them a little easier to carry that the one above, but it is the beer inside that is important. One Friday afternoon, my good friend Mark Stewart (seriously talented photographer and all round top bloke, soon to be moving to London, but here for a while yet) and I met up and drove out to Devils Backbone en route to going to his place for dinner. Mrs Velkyal had been at a quilting workshop close to Mark and his wife's place, so we decided to have a get together. Having two growlers to fill gave us a window of opportunity to sit at the bar and enjoy a few pints, and a chat with Jason about many things beer, including an upcoming brew we'll be doing - but more about that at the right time.
I filled up with Devils Backbone's Maibock, which is a deliciously smooth beer with something of a booze kick that creeps up on your from behind and smacks you across the head, I liked it. I also got a fill of my current "go to" beer, the Vienna Lager (another minor aside, I am researching the similarities and differences between Vienna Lager and Czech polotmavé pivo), which I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday afternoon.
Perhaps I am something of a stickler, but whenever I finish a growler, I make sure that I rinse it. Every once in a while I will give them a thorough cleaning - fill with hot water, add a teaspoon of Oxyclean and leave overnight, the next morning, rinse with hot water 6 or 7 times as Oxyclean leaves a slight film on the glass, once clean it gets closed and stored in the cellar until needed. Before I fill them again though, I will use my non-rinse One Step cleanser just to make sure - like I say, I am a stickler. There have been times though at the tasting room when people present you with a growler caked in all manner of crap and you just shudder at the thought of putting beer in it, and I don't mean the kind of crap a quick rinse sorts out.
I love having growlers, though they will never replace going to the pub for a few pints. A word to the wise though, it is never a good idea to drink 2 litres of Legend's 15.6% abv barleywine from a growler on a week night. Trust me.