Growlers and Cans
Growlers and Cans .... Oh My!
Today nearly every brewpub is happy to sell you a growler, a half-gallon glass
container filled with their ales and lagers. Essentially a growler is a glorified
bucket, an upscale pail. In fact, long before beer was dispensed in cans there
Over one hundred years ago a growler looked like a galvanized pail with a lid on
it. People hauled it from the pub to home to enjoy fresh beer at their leisure or at
work (yes, on the job beer drinking preceded the two martini lunch.) History
however is a bit unclear on just how this container became known as a growler.
Perhaps it growled when the carbon dioxide escaped; maybe it was the rumble
from the workman's hungry stomach at lunch just before the container was
opened. Whatever it was, the name stuck. Before World War II, kids used to lug
these covered buckets of beer to workers at lunch and to their parents at the end
of the day. They called their task "rushing the growler".
The galvanized metal growler gave way to waxed cardboard containers by the
1950's. The cardboard did eventually soak through but anyone who waited that
long to drink their beer probably wouldn't have bought it in the first place. Just as
the cardboard container sales began to soar many states began allowing liquor
sales on Sundays prompting people to simply go to the bar for a fresh pint than
drink from a container at home. Fresh draft beer beat container stored draft
beer every time. Then in the late 1980's a small brewpub in Wilson, Wyoming*
run by the Otto brothers decided to put their beer in glass vessels that looked a
lot like moonshine jugs. They put their logo on the bottle and the rest was soon
to be beer history.
A new, filled growler (the bottle is yours to keep) generally costs between $10 to
$15; refills between $7 to $10. For most beer fans a full growler empties
quickly, just as it should. If the lid is tight and the growler kept cool, the beer
could last for nearly a week.
If however you need a longer shelf life consider beer in cans. The origins of the
beer can can be traced back to 1909 when a brewery in Pennsylvania
approached the American Can Company to see if it could supply cans for the
packaging of beer. It could not. The early cans often crumbled under the high
pressure of carbonated beverage and there was always a bad reaction between
the beer and metal.
The development of a usable beer can was put on hold as Prohibition began in
1919. However in 1931, with the end of Prohibition in sight, the American Can
Co. again began to experiment with canned beer. They were able to produce a
can that could withstand pressure of over 80 lb per square inch without bursting
along the welded seam. They then created a special coating for the inside of
the can to stop the beer from reacting with the tinplate. Now their only problem
was to convince the reluctant big breweries that this innovative device would
indeed work and not ruin sales forever.
One smaller brewer was especially intrigued. It was the Krueger Brewery of
Newark, NJ. After all the years of Prohibition and the death in 1926 of Gottfried
Krueger, the brewery's founder, the family business was not in good shape. The
Krueger heirs thought that cans might be the only hope to save their company
since even good beer sometimes needs a gimmick to sell. To seal the deal,
American Can agreed to install all necessary equipment for free and the
brewery would only pay for it if the venture was a success. Krueger quickly
A test run of 2,000 cans was produced in 1933 and these were sampled by
regular Krueger drinkers (most likely sem-sober at the time) who overwhelmingly
(91%) said they liked the canned beer. It took until January 1935 however for
the first beer cans to go on sale to the general public. Still hedging their bet, the
company selected Richmond Virginia, far away from their home base, for the
first sale of their Krueger's Finest Beer in cans. It was an instant hit. The
Krueger brewery was revived overnight and as for the American Can Company,
within a year they became the primary supplier of no less than 37 breweries who
rushed to produce canned beer.
|G. Krueger Brewing Co.
June 24, 1933
*Thanks to Patti Marshall for growler information.
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The History of Growlers and Beer Cans