ONE OF THE hottest new trends in craft beer is actually rooted in a very old tradition. Before you could buy bottles or cans of your favorite beer to enjoy at home, your only option was to fill a vessel fresh from the tap at the local pub and take it with you.
Those refillable bottles are called growlers, and they're making a comeback in a big way.
Parkers Gourmet Market on Drayton began selling 64 oz. growlers over a year ago. Their eight taps have provided a welcome change of pace for beer lovers looking for draft quality from the convenience of their refrigerators.
This summer, another growler option emerged only a short block away, on the first floor of Drayton Tower. At The Beer Growler's grand opening, the line stretched down the block — a sure sign Savannah is ready for the growler revolution.
"Just from social media and word of mouth, we've been really happy with local support," says Nolan Wolf, local franchise owner. "It's really the dedication of the local beer community that's responsible for our success."
The Beer Growler offers 32 and 64 oz. growlers filled from an expansive, ever-changing group of 45 beers, ciders and sodas. It could seem overwhelming at first; but the staff and ownership are extremely knowledgeable and eager to answer any questions about the beer and/or the growler process.
It's simple to get in on the act. You purchase a refillable glass jug at your growler store of choice. They're usually sold with the insignia of the location emblazoned in large letters — but fear not! Most growler stores will happily refill your bottle no matter where it originated, as long as it's in one of their prescribed sizes.
Note that different states have different laws in regard to growler sales. In Georgia, only 32 or 64 ounce fills are permitted. In Florida, for example, you can fill 32 ounces or one gallon containers. That one gallon container won't be honored at a Savannah growler store.
Once you have your growler, you then choose from the assortment of libations offered. This is the fun part. From refreshing Belgian farmhouse ales to thick Russian Imperial Stouts and hoppy American Pale Ales, the full range of beer flavors are available for your pleasure. After being filled directly from a keg, the cap is sealed and your growler is ready to be taken home and refrigerated.
Unfortunately, the beer won't last forever. You'll want to open it within seven days and finish the growler within 24 hours of opening to preserve the carbonation and flavor. Chances are, that won't be too hard.
When your growler is empty, rinse it out thoroughly with water to prohibit the growth of bacteria. You can also go the extra step of cleaning it with a bottle brush, soap and water and then sanitizing before bringing it back in for a refill. The Beer Growler will allow you to trade in your bottle for a freshly sanitized one for your next pour, which is a welcome service.
If you're thinking this all sounds like a lot of trouble compared to picking up a six-pack off the shelf, there are five key reasons growlers have worked their way into my beer-buying habits.
Some beers just taste better on draft. Maybe it's the brighter carbonation or a perception of freshness, but there are few bottled beers I'd prefer over a pour from a nicely chilled keg.
Growlers allow you to buy beer in bulk, typically at a nice discount. If there's a particular seasonal that you wait all year to drink, this is a great way to enjoy a bit more for a lower price per ounce.
There are a number of excellent beers that are hard to find or completely unavailable in bottles. That means a growler fill may be your only way to enjoy those beers.
The reusable bottles mean less packaging waste from bottles, cans, six pack holders and bottle caps.
If you need more than a few six packs but less than a keg, this is a great option. There are a few downsides. If you can't consume the beer within a few days, it's a loss. Also, if you don't take care of your growler, you'll need to replace it fairly often. A new, empty growler is typically sold for around $5.