Growler 101, Everything You Need to Know

Drinking a beer out of a can or bottle can’t compare to that perfection that comes with drinking delicious draft nectar found at your favorite restaurant or bar. You wouldn’t be the first to crave that goodness to-go, as growlers have been around since the late 1800s.

Not much has changed since, and thankfully, Arkansas has embraced growler culture along with the craft beer movement. Last July, a law passed allowing gas stations and pubs – anyone with retail beer permits – to sell beer in growlers widely expanding home beer drinking options.

A good six months later, growlers seem to be everywhere, but Little Rock is slow to create a centralized growler list of FAQs and places servicing refills. Join us in a two-part series examining everything you need to know about your growler.

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First off, what constitutes a growler? A growler is a pressure container designed to hold and keep beer fresh for up to a week or more. They are most commonly available in a 64 oz. size – approximately 4 pints, or the howler half-growler 32 oz. size – approximately 2 pints. There is controversy as to where the name originally came from – but one of the most popular accounts claims it’s from the noise the escaping carbon dioxide made as it seeped from the pail lid when beer lovers stumbled their spoils home.

What are growlers made of, and where can I buy one? Early growlers came in all varieties, the first in small galvanized lidded pails. In the ‘50s and ‘60s growlers were not much more than cardboard resembling Chinese take-out boxes. Modern day growlers are typically glass, although stainless steel, plastics, and ceramics are also on the market. Most places that offer a refill station offer growler container purchase as well.

Is it a faux pas to use a brewery/growler station’s growler at a different location? Gas stations, restaurants, breweries, growler-stationed equipped liquor stores – they want your business. Just be sure you are bringing in a clean growler, and you’re good to go. Although keep in mind, some breweries and liquor stores have an exchange program, and in that case, you will need to bring back their logoed glass. (More on that next week.)

How do I clean my growler? Remember these simple rules – keep it cold, keep it dark, and don’t keep it too long. Once you’ve had you’ve emptied your growler, be sure to fill the container with warm water, leaving it upside down to drain. If you find yourself awake the morning after a fun night with a dirty growler, clean with vinegar. If you use a brush, make sure not to use one with exposed metal, and if detergent is used, avoid those that are oil-based.

How do I store my empty growler between refills? Be sure to store in a dry place without the lid attached.

When can I buy a growler? This is the best part … almost anytime. On Sundays in the South it is difficult to buy spirits – beer and wine included – but growlers fall into that “exceptions apply” category in Arkansas. If you don’t believe me, head to Vino’s and count the people in the line hanging out the door. The growler will be sealed with a sticker marking the date and time of purchase. If the seal is broken on the seller’s premises the growler is considered an open container.

Tune in next week for a complete list of where you can refill/purchase a growler in Little Rock and take your at-home beer experience to the next level.

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Growler 101, Everything You Need to Know