Monday, April 18, 2011

In Praise of Growlers

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.


  1. I think my brother is addicted to growlers, well he is addicted to brewpubs, and he always buys one of their growlers and whatever beer was his favorite. I would guess he has over 30 different growlers (probably many more, I just never asked how many he has).

    On a side note, I thought a friend gave me a growler of Troeg's Sunshine Pils (5% abv) and right after opening it, I realized that it was a year old (in fridge entire time) Mad Elf (10%). I was not disappointed, but I also had to make sure to watch myself.

  2. One of the (many) things I miss from the village I used to live before is having a pub a few hundred metres from my place. In nice weather like we are having these days I would go down with my džban and have it filled with Starobrno 10º while I had one at the bar, and then I would sit on the terrace with the missus and empty the thing together. Sometimes, there would be more than one trip. I miss those days.

    PS: In villages kids are still sent to fetch beers...

  3. Cool post. I think Growlers are something we might start to see more of in the UK. Whole foods have started doing them and Brewdog have just released a beer for a pub chain called "Growler".


  4. Growlers are not big here, as in I have yet to see anyone with a growler service.

    If you fill a 2L growler are you essentially charged for 4 x 500ml beers? OK I know that's not a measure used in the US unlike Europe (excluding UK and Ireland and Ireland with the exception of the Bull and Castle) but is that how it works? Or is there a special growler price considering you are bringing it home?

  5. It varies from place to place, a growler fill of the standard range at Starr Hill costs $8.50, $10 for a special and $18 for a super special.

    Devils Backbone brews are generally about $10 a fill. So it works about about the same as a six pack would cost.

  6. It would be great if growlers caught on here. Very handy for our micros that don't bottle.


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