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Bottle Talk

Nursing Your Beer

November 2013

John Robertson

Bottle Talk

If you are still drinking the same yellow, fizzy beer you drank back in college, then it might be time for a major reality check. Because in case you have not noticed, the worldwide craft beer market is on fire. There are now more than 2,300 breweries in the United States alone, and the range of flavors, styles and quality has never been higher. It is truly a beer-consumer’s marketplace.

And, there may not be a more beloved, time-honored—and now trendy—way to take advantage of the burgeoning craft beer scene than the growler. In case you are unfamiliar, a growler is a reusable container used to transport fresh, draught beer. They come in numerous sizes and are made of many different materials (glass, stainless steel, ceramic, etc.), but the 64-ounce glass model is pretty much the standard for the current trend.

Simple glass growlers usually go for less than $10 and can be used repeatedly, which means you are able to transport and enjoy great, fresh draught beer from your local craft brewery.

What’s in a Name?

There are many stories about the origin of the word growler. But a common favorite is that after Prohibition breweries used to fill metal pails with beer and then place a lid on top to prevent spillage. However, as the carbon dioxide would try to escape the pail, the lid would rattle and make a "growling" sound.

By the 1980s, brewers started using glass cider jugs as growlers, and soon thereafter, the current design was introduced. The 64-ounce growler has remained relatively unchanged for the last couple of decades.

Filling it Up and Drinking it Down

Filling is the easy part because, by law, only appropriately licensed brewery staff may fill your growler. For you, it is as simple as handing a clean growler to a beertender and asking for your beer of choice.

Emptying it is the fun part. A 64-ounce growler holds four 16-ounce pints, but it is important to keep in mind that a growler operates much like a very large bottle of beer. So when you open your growler, carbon dioxide goes out and oxygen comes in, which starts to degrade the quality of the beer. Therefore, it is best to open a growler and pour the contents at once, or over the course of an evening. This will ensure the best flavor experience possible.

Keeping It Clean

Proper growler maintenance is key to keeping your beer tasting fresh and flavorful time after time. The most important rule: Never use soap or detergent in the cleaning process because residue will be left behind, ruin the flavor of your beer, and rob it of its frothy head. Similarly, growlers should never be cleaned in the dishwasher because detergents and food particles may enter and contaminate the inside of the growler.

Although beer has a somewhat rough-and-tumble image, it is actually a very delicate product, not unlike wine, and can be negatively impacted by heat, light, contamination and mishandling.

Also microorganisms lurking in a dirty growler, left over from your last fill, will negatively affect your beer’s flavor if they are not removed. So, it’s important to make sure your growler is sparkling clean before each fill.

Cleaning instructions for the best beer possible:

• Rinse your growler with fresh water and place it upside down on a drain board to air dry.
• Place a tablespoon of baking soda into your rinsed growler.
• Fill halfway with hot water (110° F or more) and replace cap.
• Shake vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds.
• Remove cap, empty growler into sink and rinse thoroughly with cold water.
• Place growler upside down on a drain board to air dry.

The Bellevue Brewing Company has 64-ounce amber glass growlers for sale, complete with "Growler Care" instructions on the back for easy reference. Cheers!

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