Show Me Your Growler

01:26, Aug 12 2014

OPINION: Go on, show me it.

You've probably got at least one. Is it made of glass, or plastic? Maybe it's a squealer? Locked inside a musty old case for a few decades, perhaps?

OK, that's probably enough. If the Stuff moderators haven't caught this already they likely will soon, so I better get to the point.

Despite your filthy minds, what I'm talking about is actually a vessel that you put beer in.

They've been known by a variety of names over the years - rigger, flagon, half G,  - but I prefer the distinctive name our North American friends came up with. Growler.

Essentially a large vessel that you fill with beer and take away, today's growlers have evolved substantially since their early days.


According to this website, the growler first began as a humble bucket or pail as illustrated by the picture to the right (courtesy of the grand Milwaukee Country Historical Society).

It's perhaps not exactly sanitary, and many of us would struggle to keep the contents from spilling during the car ride home, but it's likely they would be so tempting you would drink it in a pig-like guzzle before you got far anyway.

I mean, just look at that "blue mottled growler"! A steal at 10 cents! And what a champion that chap on the website is with half a dozen of them slung over a pole. Most popular guy at his early 20th century home-brew club, no doubt.

After the demise of the open pail, prohibition took its course overseas but in New Zealand the infamous 6 o'clock closing meant the popularity of the half gallon exploded.

Decades later I'm sure many of us remember our parents (most likely your dad back then) filling up his half Gs at the pub. If he was trendy enough, he may have even had one of these.

Hilariously, these things now sell for a premium on Trade Me as Wellington's hipsters bid ridiculous sums for the honour of strolling into Regional Wine and Spirits and unclipping their case.

Following their swansong in the seventies and eighties the popularity of fill-your-own beer declined, but with the drink back in fashion the growler (or squealer, as our Australian friends delightfully call a miniature version) has returned with a vengeance.

In Wellington, you can fill to your heart's content in liquor stores, bars and breweries all over the city. Heck, even my local Super Liquor in Tawa has installed a "Growler Station" with four taps! Tawa!!

Most places sell plastic versions for a couple of bucks, which are handy in a pinch or when you're off on a rugged adventure, but the real connoisseur will have their own glass version.

Growlers are cheaper than buying beer in bottles or cans and they are great for taking to a party. But alas, despite all their wonderful attributes they are not perfect - their main downfall is longevity. While the beer is nice and fresh, it has a limited lifespan before becoming flat. Usually, drinking within 24 hours is advised.

Fear not, however, as the innovative beer community has tried to solve the growler's achilles heel. I can't vouch for its effectiveness but this Kickstarter-funded contraption, despite being butt-ugly, claims to keep your beer carbonated for longer.

The standard 2-litre brown bottle design has also moved on in modern times, with a plethora of shapes, sizes and materials available. Perhaps you prefer your growler insulated? This sleek looking, threadless design was also crowd-funded and will double as a thermos. Handy.

If you really want to go full bling and show up those flagon case-carrying beerdos then check out these top of the line options. For only US$130 you can pick up a moonshine-like jug from Portland Growler Co or the much more reasonably priced mini keg-shaped beauty from More Beer for $35.

So go forth and fill your growlers my friends, I highly recommend it. Just be careful how you answer when someone asks what it is you're drinking from.

Do you use growlers, or do you prefer to stick with bottles and pints?

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