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Monday, March 10, 2014

Growlers: A New Twist on an Old Tradition

DRINK 2014

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With so many craft breweries and brewpubs in our town you may be wondering if there is a way to bring that fresh draught taste home with you. Bottles are easy to find at any liquor store and most grocery stores carry at least a few local brew six-packs. Barrels are fine if you are having a party. But if you want “fresh” beer at home you may not have realized there is another option. In fact, it’s an old option that has recently come back into vogue because of craft breweries: the growler. Most craft brewers in Milwaukee offer growlers for their patrons to take freshly tapped beer off premises.

Growlers first came about in the late 1800s for carrying beer home from the pub. Bartenders would fill galvanized metal pails with beer, and the subsequent noises that were made by escaped CO2 from the covered pails earned the nickname “growler.” The idea of buying beer at the pub and bringing it home flourished, especially in areas where laws were in place to keep liquor stores closed on Sundays. As those old laws were changed and bottling became more prevalent, the growler’s popularity diminished. They all but disappeared by the 1970s.

In the late ’80s growlers started to make a comeback. Largely credited with their return is Charlie Otto, owner of Idaho’s Grand Teton Brewing. He was looking for a way to sell his draught-only product to individuals who wanted to take his beers home. A suggestion by his father, who remembered growlers, gave Otto the idea to use “cider-style” jugs to sell his beer. It wasn’t too long before other craft brewers took notice and started to do this too.

In recent years the ever-expanding craft and micro beer market has brought growlers back in a big way. Modern growlers are usually a 64-ounce, brown or clear glass jugs with screw on caps. Go to just about any local brewpub or several local bars, and you can leave with your own jug of tasty beer. Most brewers have their name or logo printed on the side of the bottle, and will clean and refill them for less than the purchase price, typically $10-$15 depending on the place and the type of beer. They are economical and good for the planet! Once filled and sealed by the pub, buyers must wait until they get home to enjoy their purchase, as open intoxicants are still verboten.

There are many places to get a growler of your own, but here are just a few places in our area you may want to consider:

Horny Goat Hideaway (2011 S. First St.) offers 8-12 of its tap brews for sale as growlers. The taps change often too, so if you are looking for a particular beer you may want to call and check what they have available the day you are going.

The Milwaukee Ale House (233 N. Water St. or 1208 13th Ave. in Grafton) sells around to 8-10 beers from Milwaukee Brewing Company (the house brewer for the Ale House) for growlers at any one time. These are the best places to get Milwaukee Brewing growlers filled and refilled, as there is only a limited selection available at the brewery location itself, whereas the Ale House sells all the varieties.

Riverwest Filling Station (701 E. Keefe Ave.) boasts as many as 30 types of craft beers and is very pro-growler. Their name and the growler jug featured as part of their logo should tip off patrons to come for a beer and plan to take some home too. In fact, the opening of this bar/restaurant helped to facilitate a law change in 2012 allowing the sale of growlers at businesses other than brewpubs.

At the Sprecher Brewery (701 W. Glendale Ave.) more than 15 varieties of beer are available for filling growlers. Refills are $8, which is a little less expensive than most places. As a special non-alcoholic treat, pick up a growler of one of their delicious gourmet sodas.

Stubby’s Gastrogrub & Beer Bar (2060 N. Humboldt Ave.) has more than 50 beers on tap, and almost all can be purchased as growlers. Only a few extremely rare or hard-to-find brews are left off. They will also refill growlers from other vendors.