What is a growler? Well take a look at what Beer Advocate has to say about it here. We sell and fill only 32oz and 64oz growlers on site and it’s not guaranteed that we can fill some specialty growlers.
We’ve had a few folks come into the tap room the past few weeks who unknowingly commit the two worst sins of beer growlers. As a result, from time to time we get some misplaced heat and anger directed our way. That’s okay. No worries! We ask that you bear with us as we grow. There aren’t many people working here and we are still in our infancy. Every day is a new learning experience.
I thought I’d lend my expertise and throw together a simple guide for the uninitiated to catch some of y’all up to speed on things. I don’t like to throw this around often but there are a few reasons that you should trust me: I have a degree in Brewing Technology from the World Brewing Academy based in Chicago & Munich; I’ve worked at the Greenville Beer Exchange which was at the time the #2 ranked bottle/growler shop in the world according to RateBeer only behind the Charleston Beer Exchange; I’ve spent countless hours independently researching these facts and unfortunately, skunking and damaging some good beer in the process.
So let’s get down to it, huh?
The first thing that folks don’t realize when getting into the growler game is that cleanliness and care of their prized beer storage vessels is of utmost importance. Just like our large fermenting and brite vessels in the brewery, these little suckers need to be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed. Before we fill the growler we also sanitize it here on-site and we recommend if you get your growlers elsewhere that you ask for this option. Don’t be afraid of the sanitizer bubbles as most standard brewery sanitizers are rinse free and will allow the beer to be poured directly into the container. Here’s a small punch list for your consumption:
- When properly poured and cared for, unopened growlers will last you anywhere between a week to possibly a couple of weeks but flavors will degrade over time. Fresh is always better, in my opinion.
- Filled growlers do best under two conditions: In the dark and in the cold. The beer likes cold because beer doesn’t like to get hot/cold/hot/cold over and over again. It damages the overall flavor of the beer. Also, sometimes but not always with fresh craft beer the yeast doesn’t get filtered all the way out and it could wake back up (especially with some of our wild yeast) and continue fermenting the beer under the right conditions. The end result is not good! The light issue we will get to in the next section.
- Once you open a growler think of it as a bottle of opened wine. Best case scenario is that you’ve got about a day or two to drink it before it loses its freshness and becomes oxidized. Oxygen is a big killer of beer flavor and taste.
- Once you’ve emptied the growler it’s best to wash it out thoroughly with really hot water. Let it air dry and be sure to store it with the cap off. If you don’t, it might create an environment for bad little bugs to hide and grow and ruin a future growler fill.
- You can then reuse the growler at our tap room or just about any other place that fills growlers!
The second beverage faux paux people make is keeping a clear growler to get filled.
- Long story short: Light reacts with the hop particles in a beer and destroys them some times within a matter of minutes. This can occur when the beer is placed in a container that allows light/UV rays to pass through it. It may not seem like it but a handful of minutes is all it takes to destroy a beer in a clear growler. This is what I’ve learned in my education and in a personal circumstance as well. It leads to a beer becoming “light-struck” or what is more commonly referred to as “skunked” beer. Some may favor this flavor, but it’s not how our beers are designed. Think of that classic green bottle European flavor.
- Short story long for you science buffs:
“German chemist Carl Lintner first described the odor and gave it the name “‘light struck flavor’ in 1875, and in the 1960s Yoshiro Kuroiwa and associates in Japan determined 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol was the main source. MBT, in fact, closely resembles the odor of that skunks spray and is derived from photodecomposition of isohumulones in the presence of a photosensitizer, riboflavin. It has a very low threshold of detection and occurs quickly in direct sunlight so may be perceived by the end of a pint consumed outdoors on a sunny afternoon. Kuriowa’s work showed the blue part of the visible spectrum is most efficient in generating light struck flavor, which is why brown bottles provide protection from MBT, clear bottles don’t, and green bottles only limited defense. (1)
- So why do some beer brands in clear bottles not produce or have this off-flavor? Well some brewers will use only hop extracts in their beers. Nothing wrong with it, but these hop extracts reduce this affect greatly. You will find this method of hop introduction popular among Big Beer and not so much in craft breweries and usually not as the only hop source in beers you would be filling your growler with. You might also perceive some notably different flavors in some of these beers than you would in truly handmade, made from scratch beers. Super science GO GO GO:
“Use of these products can inhibit the formation of sunstruck aroma, but the bittering profiles of beers made with these products are vastly different than those made with natural hops. Beer Packaged in green or clearglass tends to develop this skunky off-aroma more quickly than beer in brown glass. This is one reason why beer in celar bottles often taste quite different than beer in other packages. (2)”
1) Heironymous, Stan (2012) For the Love of Hops;
2) Oliver, Dornbusch et al (2012) The Oxford Companion to Beer.
- Generally, the best two containers to prevent this from happening are brown glass and stainless steel. If you want a stainless growler filled, it needs to have the federal government warning label attached on it somewhere.
As a standing rule of Brewery 85’s tap room, we don’t fill dirty growlers with growth/mold. We also don’t fill clear/non-brown glass growlers or plastic growlers. Sorry for this inconvenience but we’d rather you be upset about us not filling a growler than getting damaged beer from us.
Growlers are a great way to support local beer, help us help the environment by reusing growlers, and enjoy really fresh beer with friends and family! Thanks for choosing us to fill your jug with our beer!
*Fore more info on growlers please see this sheet from the Brewer’s Association Draft Quality website.