Something that has exploded in usage across the world lately is the growler , traditionally this was any container that you could fill from the local pub / bar so you could take beer home with you. A "growler runner" was a boy who would fill a bunch of metal bucket with beer from the pub and bring them to work sites for labourers to drink with lunch (those were the good ol' days!).
The growler evolved from there into a 64oz (1.89L) brown glass bottle with a handle that is used to take home your favourite beer from your local brewpub or brewery. Rather than buying a 6 pack of pre-packaged beer you either purchase a filled growler or bring back your empty one and get it refilled.
Their usage is now booming in Australia with literally hundreds of venues you can buy or get a growler refilled at (this link is just a small sample of them).
On the plus side you are getting beer the way it was designed to be served, freshly poured straight from the tap.
You are also saving a whole lot of packaging that will more than likely end up in landfill or the ocean (when you think that it replaces 6 disposable bottles, a plastic or cardboard inner and a carton that holds 4 x 6 packs)
There are some intrinsic downfalls however with standard glass growlers. Traditionally growlers were filled straight from the tap, a cap twisted on and away you went. The problem here is that you are introducing oxygen into the beer and vessel allowing spoilage bacteria to start multiplying, there is also no added pressure in the headspace (the gap above the liquid inside the bottle) so carbon dioxide can free itself from the beer leaving the it less carbonated than it was when freshly poured.
These same problems are even more pronounced after you open the growler to have your first drink. More gas escapes, more oxygen enters, so you really only have 24 hours once opened to drink it before it is spoiled and flat.
One invention to prevent this is the “counter pressure growler filler” made by companies like Pegus . These remove that initial contact with oxygen and loss of pressure by using a machine that flushes all the oxygen out of the growler and then connects it directly to the keg to fill while maintaining the co2 pressure. This results in a growler with similar properties to commercially packaged beer, it can sit for a month or more with no degradation of quality. However again there are downsides. Once opened you still only have 24hrs to finish the beer before it becomes flat and spoilt. The machine is also expensive to install and has a limited number of beer lines that can be attached to it, thereby limiting the number of beers that can be filled from it, for example a brewpub that has 20 different tap beers may only have 3 of them connected to the growler filler station.
Two other problems with growlers are heat and UV light. Beer bottles have historically been made of dark glass for a reason, UV light damages beer and therefore a bottle that helps prevent it entering was desirable. Unfortunately that same dark glass absorbs heat much more quickly than clear glass, which was ok with ales that are often drank at a warmer temperature than modern lagers are served. Commercial lagers are now usually packaged in clear glass to display their light clear colour and to stop them warming as quickly.
Of course the other problem is that if you drop a glass growler you not only lose your entire 6 pack of beer you also need to pay for a new growler too.
They are made of stainless steel so are virtually unbreakable and also stop all UV light entering.
Another fantastic feature found in some new growlers is double wall construction with a vacuum between. As a vacuum flask they have tremendous insulating properties, often being able to keep beer icy cold for an entire day in full sunshine without needing ice or an esky.
But the number one feature being added to modern growlers is an integrated beer tap and gassing system. This solves all the problems outlined above with spoilage, carbonation loss, choice of beer and expense of filling machines.
Growlers like the one in the video above can be filled from any keg tap in a bar or brewery meaning you have the choice of any beer you like (you can also fill it from bottled beer, cans or homebrew kegs!). Once filled the regulator injects co2 into the growler and pulling the pressure relief valve vents any oxygen that was trapped in there resulting in a sterile, oxygen free environment. The added pressure also maintains the carbonation of the beer and allows it to be poured the way the brewer always intended..
Check out some of the complete package deals from iKegger here.
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We decided to do things a little differently with this list. We have approached breweries from around Australia and asked them what beer they were most proud of producing in 2016!
What we are hoping is to start a list of beers that the people who know best, the brewers, think we should try.
We will do this in a series of posts, each of which will have 5 breweries responses to our questions about their best beer of 2016 along with a couple of hints about what to expect from them in 2017.
So without further ado, presented in no particular order I give to you...