Monday, August 10, 2009

Sustainable beer 101: A guide to growlers

Posted By on Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 9:20 AM

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There's a new phenomenon spreading around town - the growler. It's essentially a big jug that can be filled and refilled with beer. A common storage and fermentation accessory used by homebrewers, this awesome artifact of beer culture is beginning to enjoy greater visibility and mainstream relevance. We've all been faced with the dilemma - The party must go on, but either the pub is closing or you can't drink any more and then safely drive home. In places that are licensed to sell package alcohol, growlers resolve these predicaments.

The genesis of this glorious invention's name is debated. Suggested origins vary from the sound the beer makes when it flows into the container, to the sound of hungry stomachs before they are pacified with a hearty brew. But the growler is not a new invention by any means. Although resourceful transport of alcohol surely predates documented sources, early references to the growler concept date back centuries, when it was common for patrons to take beer to-go from local taverns in containers that range in appearance from leather sacks to enclosed buckets.

Today's modern growlers have a different outer appearance, but they fulfill exactly the same function as their counterparts of antiquity. In Florida, the standard half gallon growler is illegal, but quart and gallon sized containers are perfectly ok. Holding 2 and 4 pints, respectively, these hooch jugs full of beer joy make it possible to enjoy draught brews in the comfort of your own home. Fancy draught beer in your pajamas - think about it. Growlers also help beer enthusiasts take pleasure in out-of-region microbrews, transporting draught only offerings across markets.

But there are other benefits that far exceed the lure of fresh tap beer. Clear glass is the easiest shade to recycle, but as a general rule, if a beer comes inside a clear bottle, you really don't want to drink it. Most decent beers are packaged in brown glass, which is a notorious expensive bitch to recycle. Growlers take the brown glass ethical quandary out of brew consumption. They are sustainable, reusable, totally eco-friendly; think of it as the canvas bag of beer drinking.

Typically, your first growler fill will cost more than refills, to cover the cost of the glass container. Depending on the quality of beer put into it, the charge for a quart size growler filled to capacity should be between $8 and $15, with gallons running anywhere from $22 to $30. On average, a growler filled from a commercial draught system can sit unopened for no more than 10 days. Oxygen and beer aren't the best of friends, so after opening the growler, you have about 48 hours before the brew loses its spunk. Beer and heat also have kind of an uneasy relationship, so keep growlers refrigerated or on ice.

Locally, growlers can be obtained from Cigar City Brewing, Dunedin Brewery, and Dunedin House of Beer.

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