WRITTEN BY MATT BRASCH
For Digital First Media
During summer, many of us gather with friends and family for picnics, reunions, get-togethers and impromptu parties. Opportunities to which we like to bring our favorite local brew.
For years, glass bottles and metal cans were the easiest ways to take a sampling of your favorite beer to your gathering. Until recently, cans were only produced by large breweries, but now affordable options for canning beer are available to craft brewers of all sizes. According to a Brewers Association article from October 2015, based on 2014 data, “cans have increased to 10% of total craft volume.” https://www.brewersassociation.org/insights/craft-brewers-and-cans/. But don’t just rely on the data — anyone who walks into a Pennsylvania beer distributor will see the increased selection of craft beer in cans.
In addition to bottles and cans, another popular beer container is a glass jug called a “growler.” While many variations exist, the most commonly seen are brown glass jugs with a handle near the top for easy carrying. They come in two sizes — 64 ounces and 32 ounces (the smaller ones are sometimes referred to as “howlers,” probably for “half a growler.”) Growlers have become popular because they are filled straight from the tap at a pub or brewery and then the fresh, local craft brew can immediately be taken to a party, a picnic or other summer event and enjoyed by all. Growlers do have their drawbacks however; it is recommended that they be consumed within 48 hours and should be kept refrigerated. In addition, the screw-on caps can lose their seal over time, which shortens the life of the brew.
In an attempt to solve the refrigeration and seal issues with glass growlers, stainless steel and other metal growlers have been produced, with mixed reviews. One specific brand of metal growler that has impressed many is the Stanley Classic Vacuum Growler. Introduced in Autumn 2015, the Stanley Growler is made of stainless steel, has a vacuum insulated body, and a foam insulated lid, which, according to Stanley’s advertising, means that beer that is placed into the growler at a temperature of 38 degrees will stay cold (50 degrees or less) in the growler for 16 hours; even at 24 hours the beer will only reach 54 degrees. I conducted a test on a Stanley Growler, and it did indeed keep Bucks County Brewing Co.’s “Saison Du Lever Du Soleil” cold — and nicely carbonated despite opening it on numerous occasions — for 27 hours!
But what if you find yourself at a brewpub and all of your growlers are at home? Instead of buying yet another growler to add to the collection, now you can simply purchase a “Crowler” — a 32 oz. can filled with your choice of brew and sealed on demand at the bar. Victory Brewing Co.’s newly opened Parkesburg brewpub is one location where you can see the crowler system in action. James Gentile, Director of Brewery Operations at Parkesburg, explains that “Crowlers were brought into Parkesburg to offer our customers another to-go package option. The primary difference is the material that you are filling, an aluminum can versus a glass container. Cans are lighter and offer more variety in destinations that do not allow glass. For example, a crowler is a great option to bring our beer on a hike, to the beach, or to a party where you may not want to lug home the empty glass growler. They are also cheaper for the consumer to have filled, but obviously can only be used once versus the glass growler with can be refilled countless times.”
When asked about the potential shelf life of beer in crowlers Gentile suggested that you should apply the same rules to crowlers as you do growlers, “consume hoppy and light-bodied lagers soon after they are filled. A more robust beer can maintain a longer ‘shelf-life’ if stored in the right conditions, cool and dark. For example, your refrigerator.” Gentile believes that Victory fans appreciate the crowler system, “I think our customers love it, especially those looking to take some beer to-go without the upfront cost of purchasing a glass growler. This way, they can still sample our draft-only releases outside the confines of the brewery with friends and family not having the larger
investment that they might not want to fill again. I see most of our consumers filling crowlers at the bar over glass growlers every day.”
So when you are planning for your next get-together, don’t forget that there are many options for bringing your favorite local brew with you! Cheers!
Columnist Matt Brasch is a beer enthusiast and a lifelong Montgomery County resident. For more, go to http://thebrewholder.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at “The Brewholder.”