It used to be that it was only on rare occasions that you’d stumble across a really good craft beer that you wanted to take home with you.
The rest of them were overpriced, under-available, or just didn’t taste right.
But as the popularity of craft beer continues to grow, so does the availability of excellent styles that you just can’t bear to leave in the taproom.
When you come across a wonderful craft beer, you probably want to have your growler on hand. A refillable glass jug, a growler is a popular choice for the taproom connoisseur.
Lately, however, you may have seen fewer growlers, and more crowlers; large cans that are filled and sealed in the taproom.
Although both are excellent choices, the useful crowler does appear to be usurping the growler as the taproom choice.
This guide will introduce you to the world of crowlers and growlers, and explain why crowlers are becoming more and more popular.
What Are Growlers And Crowlers?
If you’ve never bought beer home from a taproom before, then you might be wondering what any of this means.
In short, they’re both sealed containers for taking home your favorite beer from a taproom. That’s where the similarities end.
Growlers are refillable and sealable jugs, most often made from a dark brown glass, but some are stainless steel or other insulating materials.
They hold 64oz, and generally have a handle on top for easy transportation. 64oz is 4 pints, so you can get a good few drinks from a single growler.
They do come with a screw top, but once opened, they’re best finished within a few hours.
Growlers can often be purchased at taprooms, and they’ll have the breweries’ logo on the side. Once you’ve bought a growler, you can refill it at other breweries to take your favorite craft beer with you when you leave.
Many taproom regulars like to keep a clean growler in the back of the car, so they can fill it up if they stumble on a fantastic brewery.
You can also get howlers, which are the same as growlers, only smaller. A howler can typically hold 32oz.
Crowlers are also sealed containers for taking beer home from a brewery, but rather than being reusable jugs, they’re disposable aluminum cans.
Crowlers are 32oz cans that can be filled in the tap room. The top is then sealed, and you can take it home and drink when you please.
Once open, a crowler is best consumed within a few hours. Once empty, the crowler can be cleaned out and recycled. You can’t reuse a crowler.
As you can see, there are some small similarities and some major differences. So, why are crowlers becoming more and more popular?
Why Are Crowlers Growing In Popularity?
They’re Easy To Use
It wasn’t that long ago that getting your hands on a good craft beer required some real effort or a stroke of luck.
Craft beer was seen as a niche interest, and craft beer enthusiasts often had to resort to brewing their own. Enjoyable, but a lot of work for a cold brew on a warm day.
But nowadays, craft beer can be found almost everywhere. Popular restaurants and bars have started stocking craft beers, and you can generally pick up a can at the grocery store.
And the prevalence of breweries, bottle shops, and taprooms have made craft beer more accessible than ever.
The crowler is a part of this trend.
Growlers are fantastic, and they were even more useful when you had to go out of your way to get craft beer.
Take along your growler, and you could get four pints of craft beer to bring home.
But that was the problem — you had to have the growler. Leave it at home, and you either went without beer, or bought another glass jug.
And if you didn’t find a beer you liked, then you’d carried a heavy glass growler for no reason.
Plus, when you’d finished your growler, you had to clean it out thoroughly, or risk old smells tainting your new beer.
Crowlers, on the other hand, are easy. You simply pick the type of beer you want to bring home, and the brewery fills up the can and seals it for you.
You can then pop it in your trunk, and take it with you. When you’re done, the can needs a quick wash, and then it can go in the recycling.
So, there’s nothing to bring with you, and nothing to leave behind. For forgetful craft beer fans, this is a game changer.
They Keep The Beer Better
It’s so disappointing to crack open a can of beer after a long day, only to find it’s gone stale from sitting on the shelf too long.
With a crowler, you know just when the beer was poured, and just how fresh it is.
Taprooms and breweries want you to get the beer at its best, and at its freshest. If you buy pre-packaged beer, then you don’t know how long it’s been sealed for.
For that reason, some taprooms prefer not to sell them.
But the crowler is filled on-site, so you know it hasn’t been waiting on a shelf. When you do decide to drink it, you won’t be disappointed by old beer.
This is also an area where the crowler is superior to the growler.
Exposure to light can cause beers to smell and taste off. Growlers try to counteract this effect by using a dark glass.
This blocks out most of the light, but some can still get through. On a sealed crowler, however, your brew is protected.
Another factor affecting the quality of beer is oxidation. Growlers are sealed with a screw top lid to prevent excess oxygen from interacting with the beer.
This forms a close seal, but it’s not airtight. The screw top has to be reused, so it has to have some give. The can opening of the crowler, on the other hand, is only used once, allowing it to seal completely.
A growler does a good job of keeping your beer fresh, but it can’t compare to the performance of the crowler.
They’re Just The Right Size (For Most)
This might be a slightly controversial point, but one of the major benefits of the crowler is that they’re smaller.
Yes, you might get slightly less beer to take home with you, but you don’t have to drink four pints or risk your beer going off.
A growler is 64oz, which is a lot of beer. Great for sharing, but probably more than you want in a single day.
By the time you get to the end of a growler, you’re not enjoying the flavor profile of your exceptional craft beer anymore.
And once you’ve opened your growler, it really is best to drink it all in a couple of hours.
Otherwise, the beer will go flat and stale. You might be able to stretch your growler out from midday to afternoon, but you probably don’t want to drink it the next day.
A crowler is only 32oz, which is roughly two pints. Or, the perfect amount for an evening. It’s also enough to share if you have guests over.
Once opened, a crowler does need to be finished quicker than a growler. While a growler can be partly resealed to maintain some freshness, the crowler can is not suitable for reuse.
But with only 32oz to drink, tackling a crowler doesn’t seem like hard work.
Think 32oz isn’t quite enough? No one’s going to stop you from buying two crowlers (or more). You can drink it the same day as the first, or save it for a future date.
Even if that future date is the next day, the beer will still be fresher than an opened growler.
They Can Be Shipped
Once you get into the craft beer community, you’re going to hear about a lot of brews that you want to try.
As much as we all like the sound of touring the country with a growler, filling it up along the way, it’s not a feasible lifestyle for most of us.
But getting a crowler shipped from halfway around the world is possible, and pretty common.
Crowlers are lightweight, tightly sealed, and disposable.
They can be shipped all over the place for a relatively low cost, allowing you to trade your favorite craft beer with those elsewhere in the country.
Sending a growler through the mail is not anywhere near as easy. Made of glass, they’re both breakable and heavy.
The cost of shipping alone often makes the endeavor not worth it.
Plus, you have to make sure to pack it in a way to prevent breakages. And while a growler might be sealed, there is still a risk of leaking.
Even if you ignore all that, you’re still sending away a container that you might want back.
Overall, shipping a crowler is significantly easier than sending a growler.
Crowlers And Growlers: Final Thoughts
There are advantages and disadvantages to the crowler and growler. Growlers can be refilled, and refilled easily.
Even the smallest breweries can fill a growler just by adding a tube to the tap. On the other hand, growlers are easily left at home, and don’t stay fresh for very long.
Lightweight and sealed crowlers are a great way to take your favorite craft beer home, and the cans are recyclable when you’re done.
For consumers, crowlers are fantastic, but they aren’t as useful for the brewer. In order to offer crowlers, they have to invest in some specialized equipment.
Crowlers might be on the way up, but don’t expect growlers to go anywhere soon. No matter which you prefer, they’re both excellent ways to enjoy quality craft beer from home.