It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, did you get a chance to read this month's Special Report on BeerNexus about
growlers? I know I'm in the minority but I'm not a fan of them. Here are three reasons why:
they often leave beer oxidized, the clear growlers get lightstruck in just minutes, and that the
vessel is often unsanitary.
It's a well known fact that beer poured from a tap into a growler is going to get some oxidation
just as in bottling a beer either professionally or as a home brewer. There is a reason the
bottling gun was created--to purge glassware of oxygen that will potentially spoil your beer.
Every bit of oxygen you can keep out of the bottle will result in a noticeably better-tasting beer.
Without advanced technology, most bars and breweries fill growlers directly from the taps,
which causes foaming and splashing and much more contact with oxygen. That explains why
many upscale pubs have gone with growler machines which fill the bottle in a sanitary manner
with little to no oxidation. A number of places right here in Manhattan (NY) have installed the
Pegas Craftap Growler filler for just those reasons.
Fans of growlers will defend how well they keep their glass clean. They'll tout the precautions
they take with temperature and fill. And of course they'll say there aren't really any clear
growlers out there, that all are brown. Baloney. Even more preposterous is the claim by some
growler lovers that beer in a growler stays fresh tasting for over a week or more. Please Bill,
don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing those who buy a growler and show a respect for the beer
by consuming it within 1-2 days and to keeping it refrigerated the whole time.
For me, whenever possible, a bottle is always preferable, unless you're bringing it to a larger
gathering. I surly appreciate the fact that growler-filling is a cost effective way to buy good
beer since most places only charge you a fee equal to about three of the beers and not the
four that most bottles hold.
Every brewer I've met works hard to build in quality in their product. They hate for it to be
poured on dirty lines, served in dirty glassware, and poorly presented. Things like that will ruin
the best efforts of even the most skilled brewer just as putting their beer in the wrong type of
growler and handling it poorly will do. And that sadly what happens in the majority of cases.
Face it, most customers do not know how to correctly clean and store a growler, They simply
show up at a bar and get it filled. Even if they ask the bartender to run some water thought it
before a refill it won't help. So forget taking a growler home, head out to your local pub and
drink there. Supporting your local brewery and bar is a good thing.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next month.
Hey Gina, you're a bit too serious on this issue. After all, If a person is enjoying the beer they
drink from their growler, then there is nothing wrong with it. How else can you walk, bike, or take
a quick trip to your local brewery and get local, fresh beer to go while supporting your favorite
brewery. This is especially true when that brewery does not have bottled beer.
To me, just the idea of bringing fresh draught beer home is exciting and fun. I agree there
probably should be some consumer education about keeping a filled growler chilled and then
drinking it sooner rather than later but drinking from it somehow adds a level of romance and
intrigue to craft beer; it makes for a special beer drinking experience away from the pub.
Gina, here's a question for you - is drinking a growler a couple days old as bad or worse than
drinking a bottle of beer that can be three to four months old ? Well? The correct answer for me
is 'it depends'. Once the beer leaves the brewery's bright tank and is packaged there will be
some degree of oxygen inclusion which in turn starts to deteriorate the flavors. So growlers have
no monopoly on that. The handling practices determine how much oxygen makes it into the
package. This is exacerbated by temperature and movement, going from brewery to warehouse
to warehouse to retailer. These, sometimes not to careful folks can ruin the quality of the beer in
the bottle. Did warehouse properly keep the beer cool? Did they move the cases around more
then necessary? Did they rotate stock and not order too much?
I'm confident that most growlers are brown glass, which should mitigate the light struck issue.
Some are insulated warding off the warming concern. And many consumers clean and rinse it
properly (try soda water.) So a growler is not a uniformly terrible device as you imply. By the
way, I just bought a stainless steel one; expensive but neat looking. I have only filled one once,
but its wide mouth and not too narrow body make it easier to fill. The stainless steel is easier to
clean and harder to scratch, and the swing top all-metal seal is great.
I remember speaking to a few bartenders about growlers a while ago and most of them said the
majority of the fills they do are in new growlers. That limits the “grubby” problem and allows the
bartender to hopefully explain how to care properly for it. I strongly believe bartenders must be
taught to do that and how to properly inspect incoming growlers. That would solve most of your
concerns. Next time you go to Tony's on 34St watch how they always inspect the growler first.
Of course I agree with you that If a growlers are not rinsed and cleaned after each use, or if they
are left to sit around after filling, then they will certainly harm the quality of the beer. But other
than that growlers are fine vessels to transport fresh beer.
And yes, I also agree that the best beer is the freshest, right from the tap at your local brew pub
or brewery but using a growler is the next best thing.
Here's looking at you, kid! See you next month.