There’s just something about draft beer that makes it taste better than most bottled beer. It could be the lack of pasteurization, or the very limited exposure to oxygen and light. It might even be the close association with the social atmosphere it’s served in. Whatever the reason, people have been wanting to bring draft beer home since its inception.
The answer to this desire is the growler. We know it today as the 64 ounce brown glass bottle that holds pocket change just as well as it holds draft beer to take home from the bar. But it wasn’t always this way.
Rewind to the turn of the 19th century. The beer industry was not yet crushed by Prohibition and World Wars, and business was good. The vast majority of all beer sold was draft, and saloons were the main supplier. At the time, the saloon was a man’s place. Women and children were seldom allowed. Exceptions included prostitutes and those rushing the growler.
This funny phrase was given to those transporting draft beer from the saloon to the home or other local destination. Beer was often toted in a galvanized steel pail with a lid to prevent spillage (no one likes spillage!). The container “growled” with escaping carbonation when carried, hence the name. The job of rushing the growler was given to women and, most commonly, children. Imagine sending your 10-year-old to the brewery for a growler of pale ale. My, how times have changed!
Fast forward to modern times. The growler has evolved into a high quality beer container with no growling at all (I hope). Long gone are the days of schlepping your favorite brew home in an awkward pail. How do you pour from that thing? Beer everywhere… except for your glass and mouth. Sad story.
Today we’re spoiled with options. We have the standard brown glass growler, ceramic growler, stainless steel growler, keg-shaped growler, vacuum insulated growler, aluminum can growler, and even the lightweight plastic bag growler for camping. The list goes on, as does the sizes they’re available in. Each one has its benefits and disbenefits. (Stay tuned for a post on growler reviews down the road!) Some will argue growlers do a disservice to the brew no matter the shape, size, or construction. And yet, over 100 years later, growlers still have a market.
If ever you spill a bit of beer on that first growler pour, just remember, at least you’re not using a silly, sloppy pail.