Part 3: Take Out-What are Growlers and Crowlers?
Read Part 2: Why Are We Taking a Brewery Tour and What The Hell is a Flight?
As promised, here are my views on the growler and crowler thing. Of course my husband never leaves without one or the other, so I have seen the filling process several times. So you go to a brewery, you do your flight, order a pint of the beer you like to drink there and make sure its the one you like, and then you want to know how to take some home. Well your in luck, because you can get your favorite craft beer to go in a growler, which is usually a 1/2 gallon jar, or in a crowler, which is a 32 oz can. It’s like going into Starbucks and ordering a venti or a short. It’s all about what size you want and how fast you are going to drink it.
First, I will tell you about a growler only because that is what we have most of in our house. My husband has started quite the collection, he has one from all the different breweries he has visited. The first time you buy the growler, get it filled, then bring it back when its empty for more beer. WHAT..….how convenient! We have a pretty large collection in my house, and there is something in common with all of them, they are dark brown glass jugs. At first I thought this was just a preference for the brewery because its a dark color, like beer, and manly looking. But, come to find out, the dark brown glass prevents light from getting through to the beer and causing the beer to produce a bad taste or smell, a term we all know as “skunked beer”. Not all growlers are glass, some are ceramic, stainless steel, or plastic. From my perspective most are glass, and I am starting to see the stainless in most breweries as well.
Next they fill the growlers. But, its not as straight forward as you think. Most growlers are filled in breweries by attaching about a foot long hose to the end of the tap, then sticking the other end of the hose in the growler to the bottom. I watched and thought “why are they doing that”. I found out the answer is that the tube is a specific length to go to bottom of the growler, and it helps to get an effect of filling the growler from the bottom up. This helps to reduce filling time and save beer. Another method used is by purging the growler with CO2, which helps eliminate oxygen in the growler before pouring so it keeps the beer fresher longer. Using both of these methods helps give the beer you take home the best taste and longest shelf life.
Now let’s discuss the caps, they are different too. Some growlers have a tilt top lid, its just like the kitchen canisters I have in my house, if that helps give you a visual. There is a rubber ring on the inside of the lid which, when shut and latched, helps form an air tight seal on the jug. Another method I have seen is a standard looking cap, with plastic or another type of lining that gets screwed on the top, then wrapped with electrical tape to form an air tight seal. I know it sounds weird but thats what they all do to seal in the freshness. It’s cheap and it works. The last thing you will see is a homemade tag or label of your chosen beer attached with your new growler that has the name of the beer and the ABV%. Now you are ready to go home, break the seal and drink your favorite craft beer any time you want. Best thing is, you have a growler keepsake, whether it is a onetime souvenir, or from the brewery right down the street, you now have your own refillable growler.
Now we will talk about the crowler. This is a 32oz take-home can of your favorite beer. It starts off as an empty, topless aluminum can which is labeled and personalized per brewery, and a lid. Prior to filling the crowler, they usually purge a little CO2 to the can prior to filling it with beer to help keep it fresh and last longer once sealed. After filling the can, breweries have this awesome machine that they put the can under which lifts the can up to seal the lid on the can. It is loud, it spins, and looks like something that belongs in a machine shop. Once done, voila, you have a fresh 32oz can of your favorite craft beer to take home and put in your frig. Unlike the growler, this is not refillable, but still a cool keepsake.
These are the two types of take-home beer options that I have seen so far. I am sure there are more types and also different styles each brewery uses to produce and sell there awesome craft beer that allows my husband to contribute to their business. Some people may ask which one should I buy? It all depends on your taste or if you want a collector jug. The major differences obviously is the size you leave with, and also the shelf life. Typically, a growler should be consumed in the next 24-72 hours, especially after it has been opened. The crowlers will last longer, I have seen them in my fridge for weeks and when opened still look and taste like they did at the brewery.
So there have you my input on take-out beer from your favorite brewery. The next time you go to brewery and get beer to go, pay attention to how they do it. It really is amazing. Sometimes I think it seems old fashioned and out of date, but then I think NO!, this is what makes the craft beer scene so cool. Making craft beer really is an art, there are so many touches and things done to keep it that way, and taking home freshly made beer is one of them. It’s gives you a down-to-earth, homey, and folksy feel and it is awesome! So the next time you go to a brewery, get some of your favorite craft beer to take home in a your very own growler or crowler.