Jim Vorel writing at Paste:
If you’re a drinker whose induction into the world of craft beer came fairly recently—say, in the last few years, or in what we’ll surely still be calling the “pandemic era” decades from now—then it’s entirely possible you’ll have no conception at all of the concept of the “beer growler.”
Great read. Good to revisit that history.
I never owned one of the fancy CO2 pressurized growlers, but I did own some double-wall insulated ones and plenty of glass ones. Someday I’m going to gaze back in time and wonder when I first came to craft beer. As best I can recall today, which is probably as best I’ll ever be able to recall it, this happened at some point during my college career at Rutgers University. Campus life had plenty of beer pong and while we weren’t filling cups with 8% IPA’s the not-crap you drank between games was closer to craft beer than to the commercial swill you see advertised during American football games today.
It took me two or three years after college to begin home-brewing, and by that point I was invested in drinking only craft lagers and ales. Vacations to Vermont and Asheville, North Carolina involved all of the amazing craft beer flowing through those states and converted me to a craft beer drinker for life.
Growler usage was a bit of a rarity in my craft beer lived experience. The greatest use I saw of them was during house parties years after college, brought by a friend who truly loved craft beer. That sort of dedication was endemic to the growler scene; you had to want to choose craft beer as your drink, you had to put in the effort to clean, fill, and consume from a heavy glass container.
When River Horse Brewing moved from Lambertville, NJ down into Ewing, NJ I would often fill a growler with their beer each week. However, the ability of smaller breweries to can their product arrived around this time. Being able to easily and cheaply can a beer was what killed off the growler. Why risk sending home a sub-standard version of your product in someone’s unclean glass container when you could instead fill sanitized cans ahead of time and save all that fuss? Consumers, me included, preferred cans for their portability and the possibility of having a taste of a beer without committing to consuming 64oz of it in a single sitting. (Not that, uh, I ever did that!)
This weekend I clean out (some of, I’m getting there) my garage. Several glass growlers were placed into the recycling bin. I’m not sad about that. Instead, it is awesome to realize how far craft beer has come in my own lifetime.
(An Other Half IPA was consumed during the writing of this post.)