Growlers, they are a great way to take home beer from those smaller breweries that don’t have packaging systems and are often the only way to take seasonal and small batch beers from those who do package their product. What’s more is that they get back to root of beer making when consumers could only drink at the pub and were responsible for the container they used to transport it. With craft breweries opening up like crazy I do often wonder about the amount of waste we produce to bottle and can our liquid love.
Yet they can be a pain the ass to haul (or remember to haul) to the brewery every time you want to fill them up. Moreover certain states make it much harder than necessary to fill them with your favorite beer. The last couple of months that we have spent in California have reminded us we still have a ways to go in making growlers the green, convenient way to transport beer that they were designed to be.
It started with a law that was passed around August of 2013 that tried to clarify some terminology that allows California breweries to fill growlers that were not their own if they obscured the previous brewery’s name and information. In addition they need California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control approved labels to attach to these competitor growlers. Great news for craft beer drinkers, right?
Well in practice we have seen that this isn’t quite as simple as it would seem. We still hear breweries say that don’t do it for fear of accidentally breaking the law while others have made policies for quality control reasons that state they will only fill their own growlers. In fact, there is a small segment of brewers don’t like the growler in general as it removes a control from them and exposes their product to elements they try very hard to avoid such as light, heat, and oxygen.
Thus we end up with the growler dilemma that forces an avid beer fan to own a growler for each brewery that he frequents. With California’s large population of breweries this can turn into quite a large collection in the name of convenience and being more environmentally responsible.
These issues are exacerbated during beer travel when you do not have room to carry every growler you will possibly need. There have been several times that we have decided not to get a growler we were previously excited about simply because we don’t have room in the RV for another one. On several occasions during ours travel a brewery will offer to trade us growlers for one of their own so we didn’t have to buy a new one, but it is still frustrating as a beer fan in it’s hay day to have this barrier in a state know for it’s craft beer.