Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal gave prime real estate (front of the Personal Journal section) to the topic of growlers Not a pack of foaming at the mouth dogs, but rather a 64-ounce reusable bottle that holds beer from craft breweries.
According to the Brewers Association (www.brewersassociation.org), there are three words affiliated with craft brewer: small, independent and traditional. The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.
Typically, if you want to enjoy craft beers, you have to visit the brewery (like Lagunitas in Petaluma where we spent Saturday afternoon) or a tap room (like the Albany Tap Room) that a wide variety of beers on tap and in bottles.
What was interesting about the Journal story (A Growler to Go, Please: Beer Fans Belly Up to the Jug), is that it talked about people having access to growler refills at their local drugstore.
Apparently this is old news for those in New York where there is a Duane Reade on every street corner.
“I’ve come to realize that beer from the tap is better than beer from the bottle, and this is the only way of bringing the tap flavor home,” says Jonathan Garonce, who last week filled a growler with Goose Island IPA from a beer tap station at a Duane Reade drugstore on New York’s Upper West Side. Mr. Garonce owns two growlers, which he refills whenever he’s having friends over. He also owns a smaller, 32-ounce growler, sometimes called a growlette.
Apparently Duane Reade has been doing growler refills for over two years.
Whole Foods Market Inc. started offering growlers in 2006. Today, it has 40 growler stations in nine states, and says it plans to add more.
Whether you’ll be able to tap into this trend depends on your state’s laws pertaining to growler sales at places other than bars and breweries.
The number one benefit of growler usage is that you can achieve the draft experience at home which sure beats drinking bottled beer.
The Journal story noted that a glass growler usually costs about $5. The price to fill it varies, but is often $10 to $15. Most growlers have screw-top lids that help the beer stay fresh and fizzy for one to two days.
The fact that growlers are reusable is a plus for those who are environmentally conscious.
And if you are super ambitious, you can hit the trails with this bad boy:
A 64oz Growler by Hydro Flask ($49) that is vacuum insulated. The company claims it is the ideal size for filling up with your beer of choice from the local brewery and then taking that IPA or Porter to trails.
Some fast facts:
Craft beer consumption is on the rise. According to the Brewers Association:
- Craft brewers sold an estimated 13,235,917 barrels* of beer in 2012, up from 11,467,337 in 2011.
- The craft brewing sales share in 2012 was 6.5% by volume and 10.2% by dollars.
- Craft brewer retail dollar value in 2012 was an estimated $10.2 billion, up from $8.7 billion in 2011.
Background on the Growler name:
Did some quick research on the name growler. According to Word-Detective.com:
- …back in the 19th century the standard “growler” was a simple steel pail or a can that had originally contained lard or tomatoes. In working-class neighborhoods a common evening ritual involved sending one of the children to the local tavern bearing a “growler,” with instructions to have it filled and bring it home straightaway. This journey was called “rushing the growler” or “working the growler.”
- Multiple “growlers” were also commonly enjoyed by gangs of street drunks, who became increasingly belligerent as the evening progressed, until even veteran police officers shied from encounters with the “growler mobs.” The institution of the “growler” was, incidentally, considered by some in the late 19th century to be a major social evil, the meth lab of its day.
- Researcher Gerald Cohen, on the other hand, has come up with what strikes me as a more likely origin. Noting that an alternate form of “rush the growler” back in the 1800s was “chase the duck,” Cohen suggests that the original metaphor behind such phrases was that of a hunting dog dispatched to find and retrieve a downed fowl. In “chase the duck,” the command to the “fetcher” is obvious. In “rush the growler,” the “growler” is the dog urged to fetch the prey quickly. Cohen’s theory seems entirely plausible, and I’d be willing to bet a bucket of beer that he’s right.
So you see, the dog connection wasn’t far off!
Perfect timing. In the Review section of the Weekend Journal was a write-up about a book called “The Audacity of Hops” –Tom Acitelli’s chronicle of the American craft beer revolution. Coming in at 400-pages, it contains many anecdotes and stories that provide some context / enlightenment of what’s behind the label.