What the Heck is a Growler?

Growler? We are not talking about the four-legged canine type or the sound your stomach makes before dinner – we’re talking about the kind that carries fresh beer from a brewery to your house. There are many ideas as to the origins of the growler, so let’s take a look at some of them.

At the turn of the century, fresh beer was carried from the local pub to one’s home by means of a small, galvanized pail. Rumor has it that when the beer sloshed around the pail, it created a rumbling sound as the CO2 gas escaped through the lid – thus the term “growler” was born.

Galvanized PailIn the 30’s and 40’s, kids used to bring covered buckets of draft beer from a local brewery to workers at lunchtime, or to their parents at dinnertime, a practice called “rushing the growler.”

After World War II, waxed cardboard containers with lids were used to take home beer – they were round and resembled take-out Chinese soup containers. In many US states, it was illegal to sell draft beer on Sunday. So if you wanted beer on Sunday you went to the bar on Saturday and bought one of these containers of draft beer. By the late 60’s many bars had switched to plastic containers and were allowed to sell packaged beer after hours. Soon after, many states allowed Sunday sales of beer at liquor stores, and the need for growlers of any kind dwindled.

In the early 80’s, Newman Brewing in Albany, NY used to sell plastic gallon containers of their beer. Apparently if you brought back the empty Beer Growlerto the brewery, they would replenish it with more beer.

One claim to the modern day growler comes from 1989, when Charlie Otto and his father were discussing the dilemma facing the Otto Brothers Brewery. They wanted to offer beer-to-go for their local customers, but could not afford to bottle their beer at the time. Father Otto suggested using the covered-bucket type of growlers, but Charlie recognized the need for an updated package type. He purchased a small silkscreen machine and soon began putting the Otto logo on half-gallon glass bottles that resembled moonshine jugs.

The modern-day growler was born!

Today, these half-gallon jugs are filled straight from the beer tap and are sealed with a twist-cap. KegWorks has the actual growler for sale and the handy growler filler, making it easy to enjoy the wide variety of beers available for use with a growler, including my favorite, Sled Dog beer by Wagner Valley. Enjoy!


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