Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher

Growlers: Is there anything beer can’t do?

I have already expectorated all over the crackpot alcohol retailing laws of my new state, and in that vein, let me praise the new Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting for introducing me to the growler. I made a WF run yesterday, and saw the ingenious way the store gets around Pennsylvania’s crazypants beer law. Because you can only sell beer by the six-pack in bars, WF created a pub within the store. You can buy beer or wine by the glass and enjoy it on premises … or you can go to the cooler in the back of the mini-pub and buy a bottle of beer or a six pack. Or you can purchase a “growler,” one of two sizes of glass jug with a top, which you can have filled from one of six taps. I bought the small growler, and had the clerk top it off with an IPA (all six beers are locally brewed). We’ll see how that goes. When you finish your growler, you can take it back to be refilled. It’s like buying beer from a bulk bin. The thing is, you have to consume the beer within a couple of days, or it goes flat, or flattish (this, according to the growler expert standing behind me in line). That’s why I bought the demi-growler bottle; I can’t go through 64 ounces of beer that quickly. Sadly, I have declined with age.
The NYT wrote last week about the rise of growler culture in New York City. Excerpt:


Growlers — 64-ounce glass vessels that look like a moonshine jug — have become the beer accessory of the moment. And the jugs, filled at taps in bars and stores, are not just the toys of the bearded, flannel-shirt, beer-geek set.
“In the beginning we tried to figure out, ‘Who’s going to be our market?’ ” said Ben Granger, 32, an owner of Bierkraft, which began filling growlers in spring 2006. “We thought, mullet-heads and beer-bellied dudes. But the first run was ladies with strollers. They will tell you they’re buying them for their husbands. Three weeks later, they’ve got two. One’s his and one’s hers. The next one that caught me by surprise was dads coming in with their kids. Then there’s the beer crowd who’ll rush in to get on this or that before it’s gone. There’s no age limit.”
Michael Endelman, a journalist at Rolling Stone, is one of those growler-loving fathers. “I don’t go to bars too much anymore,” he said, gesturing to his baby daughter Mimi. “It just seems like a great way to be a beer geek without going out.”
Some customers appreciate growlers for reasons of economy (refills range from $8 to $20 or more) or ecology. And as more craft brewers choose not to bottle their products, many fans like the idea of getting fresh beer that until recently was sold only in specialized bars.


There is, however, a potential problem with growlers — one that I encountered yesterday afternoon [read past the jump for more]…

From the NYT story:

That much-vaunted freshness, however, depends on how the bottle is filled.
“There’s always the possibility that someone may not fill the growler properly,” said Shane Welch, founder of Sixpoint Craft Ales brewery in Brooklyn, which sells its products in stores in growler form. Most stores and bars run the beer straight from the tap to the bottle. “If you don’t fill it to the top, if you don’t purge the air out of there, when you close the container it will be stale beer,” Mr. Welch said. “You probably have to drink it that night.”
Mr. Granger, who says growlers constitute a large percentage of his sales, has tried to avoid that possibility. He has a system in which bottles are filled under pressure through a plastic hose to keep out oxygen. Filled that way, he said, they could stay fresh for months unopened, and three to five days when opened.
“Ergo, no flat beer,” he said. “No oxygen in the bottle, no foaming beer, no waste.”

I watched the growler guy at the Whole Foods here fill my bottle and others, and he didn’t fill them all the way to the tippy-top. We’ll see how it turns out today.

Comments read comments(19)
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posted January 30, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Growlers are a popular option among the micro-breweries on the western end of PA. There’s is nothing like a growler of East End Witte from East End Brewing.

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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted January 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Seems like you could buy a CO2 or nitrogen tank and use that to purge the oxygen at home.
I do that for my wheat storage.

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Tiny Tim

posted January 30, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Don’t know where you are in the city, but Hawthorne’s at 11th and fitzwater has a special growler filling system.

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posted January 30, 2010 at 8:56 pm

growlers were fairly common before the rise of canned/bottled beer
what is interesting is that a capitalist operation has found a way around an absurd government regulation. Of course the PA government officials would call it a loophole. nothing of the sort. WF just follows the philosophy of Sun Tsu. instead of attacking the wall (government regulations) head on, they just go around them

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Michigan Spewing Company

posted January 30, 2010 at 9:13 pm

I drive by a microbrewery every day on the way home, and stop occasionally when the mood strikes. I’ve always tempted to buy a growler, but usually settle for a six-pack. Why? Two reasons. One, whenever I do, something comes up and I don’t drink much of it, it goes flat in a couple of days, and I end up pouring money down the drain. (No excuse for that, I know, but I’m getting older, and life happens.) Second, even on those occasions when I know there’s a good chance of finishing the beer, I never seem to remember to bring the empty bottle from last time for a discounted refill. I already have 3 empties in my garage, I’m not going to drive to and from work every day with them rattling around my trunk, and if I bring home another bottle my wife will shoot me. So six-packs it is.
Plus, a guy I used to work with used the term “growler” for, um, a workplace bathroom interlude. As in, heading off toward the washroom, newspaper in hand, announcing it was “time for a growler.” So the term’s got some negative connotations for me. That might play some kind of unconscious role in my hesitation, too.

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posted January 30, 2010 at 11:46 pm

I love how the free market circumvents and subverts nanny-state laws.

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Your Name

posted January 31, 2010 at 7:20 am

You should check them out at Iron Hill Brewery as well. Have some salmon spring rolls while you’re there.

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posted January 31, 2010 at 8:29 am

Eastern PA is a beer mecca minus the Kaaba. I especially treasure Victory Brewery in Downington; they make no bad beers. Hop Devil is legendary among hopheads. The on-site brewpub, when I visited a couple of years ago was rudimentary with a simple menu, but every single beer I sampled was outstanding which I have experienced only once before in my 20 years of devoted brewpub patronage-(Salem Beerworks in Salem MA for those who must know; and a truly creative menu to boot).

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Mary in Phila.

posted January 31, 2010 at 9:55 am

Mary in Phila.

posted January 31, 2010 at 10:01 am

Bummer. Some of those links don’t work–sorry! John Harvard’s had a huge selection when I was there last, though.
Mary in Phila.

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Saint Andeol

posted January 31, 2010 at 12:56 pm

yeah, that sure does suck that alcohol is such a pain to get in your state. just be glad that your narcotic of choice is legal. i’m unlucky enough to prefer pot, which is less harmful and dangerous than alcohol in just about every way, yet due to ignorance (and Nixon, too), it’s a lot tougher to get.
but no, it’s a bummer that you have to suffer under such draconion, “crackpot retailing laws”. just be glad it’s legal for you to be a responsible adult with the drug of your choice. and yes, i am calling you a drug user, but it’s all in fun :)

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posted January 31, 2010 at 9:17 pm

I was in PA last year for about 3 months. I bought a gallon of beer from the tap at a bar in Carlisle. They put it in a milk jug but didn’t have a plastic top for it so they put a piece of plastic wrap over it. Talk about feeling low-rent.

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Christian Louboutin Replica

posted January 31, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Now it becomes a Strender to buy something, such as shoes Christian louboutin boots online.Replica fashion.Christian Louboutin are women’s favorite shoes.Christian Louboutin are so cheap while its quality is so good that many women do not men like to buy new shoes for different aim.Saling cheap replica Christian Louboutin Fashion Women have provided so many different styles of fashion shoes for women in the world you can find what you like. Jessica Simpson, a famous singer and actress, who has a lot of sexy and sophisticated shoes in his shoe wardrobe.

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Sotto Voce

posted January 31, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Egad! Now I see the reason for those accursed captchas. How did that footwear foolishness get past the perimeter guard?
I need a demi-growler of Daily Crisis IPA to wash the taste of that rude intrusion from my palate.

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posted February 1, 2010 at 9:24 am

I don’t know this from experience but I’ve read on the boards that people have had many successes keeping growlers filled withe ale for many weeks and even months! The key is you cannot open it and the employee must have filled it properly. Once opened you need to consume the beer rather quickly depending on the ale.

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posted February 1, 2010 at 10:09 am

“I love how the free market circumvents and subverts nanny-state laws.”
Yep, like medicinal marijuana

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posted February 1, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Growlers are good for about 10 days max. They don’t last for months. I try to drink them within 5-7 days. One trick is to wrap a lot of electrical tape around the lid.

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posted July 8, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Go to Hawthorne’s Cafe in Philadelphia. They have special growlers (don’t remember why they work better, nitro-cap or something)
They will last a week fresh if you open and close it. However, they can last 5 months if you don’t open it. $15, but totally worth it imo.

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