What Is a Beer Growler?

A full pint beside growlers of fresh beer.

Lauri Patterson / Getty Images

Growlers are glass jugs that allow you to bring home fresh draft beer from the pub or brewery. Many homebrewers also use growlers to store their brews because it is easier than bottling.

It's common for brewpubs and breweries to offer their beers in a growler. This allows you to return with an empty jug for a refill, which saves money and gives you the freshest beer available without installing a keg system at home.

What Is a Growler?

A growler is any container used to sell a measured amount of beer. Most growlers hold half a gallon of draft beer, though some can hold an entire gallon.

Beer Growlers 101
The Spruce Eats / Bailey Mariner

The growler has taken many forms over the years, but its primary purpose has always been to transport fresh beer from a brewpub or brewery to the drinker's home. Brewers spend a lot of time precisely perfecting their recipes, and often use growlers as a way to sell their beers when they're not set up for bottling. Today, most growlers are made of dark brown glass and have a screw-on cap. Some fancy growlers use a ceramic stopper that clamps down with a metal attachment around the neck.

Brown glass beer bottles allow less light to hit the beer inside, so growlers use brown glass, too. When too much ultraviolet light hits a beer, it can cause a foul odor and taste, essentially ruining it. This is often called "skunked" beer.

Tips for Using a Growler

Growlers are becoming more popular for selling craft beer. Many brewpubs and breweries are opting for this packaging method, and you can even find a few growler refill stations at stores that specialize in selling beer. It's a great way to explore beers on tap for a minimal price, and many beer drinkers prefer it to the average six-pack of cans. However, if you choose to go the growler route, you will need to take special care of the beer.

  • Always rinse the growler clean as soon as it's empty. Soap shouldn't be necessary, just a thorough hot water rinse until the growler smells clean. Allow it to dry completely before sealing it again.
  • Refrigerate a growler to maximize the beer's shelf life. Unopened, the beer should be good for seven to 10 days. You have about two to three days to drink the beer after opening before the beer begins to go flat.
  • Limit the size of your growler according to how much you drink. The point of a growler is to get the freshest beer, and there's no sense in buying a gallon if you're not going to drink it before it goes bad. That's why most growlers are only a half gallon, and this is the perfect size for the average beer drinking household.

Where to Buy Growlers

Thanks to the craft beer movement, it is easier than ever to find a growler. Most stores that specialize in homebrewing and winemaking sell growlers of various sizes and they are surprisingly inexpensive.

If you have a local brewery or brewpub that sell growlers, you can often buy a growler directly from them. Some sell the jugs outright, and others require a deposit in hopes that you will return it or ask for a refill when you're done.

No matter the case, if you are hoping to get a growler filled, there are a few things you should know:

  • Clean the growler before returning it or asking for a refill.
  • When buying a growler for the first time, you will pay for both the growler and the beer it is filled with.
  • Your refills should be significantly cheaper because the price of the growler is not included.

This fill-your-growler system is a nice way to enjoy draft beer at home. Many beer aficionados use it to explore whatever beers are on tap and find that the cost savings are worth an extra trip to their nearest pub or brewery.