What would you like in your growler?
A growler is a 32- or 64-ounce container (usually glass) made to fill with beer to take home.
Growlers became popular in the late 1980s as a way to take home beer from a brewery that otherwise would have to be consumed at the brewery. The term growler probably comes from the late 1800s when beer was taken home from the local brewery in a covered bucket. The escaping CO2 supposedly made a growling noise.
Arizona breweries have been selling growlers for some time. Last summer, the Legislature allowed licensed stores to fill and sell them.
Tristan White of Dragoon Brewing says the growlers are "a perfect opportunity for our customers to have access to our beer off premises." He said they sell "way more" growlers than expected. He added that selling growlers is somewhat time-consuming, due to the time it takes to fill the growlers versus filling a pint glass.
At Barrio Brewing, owner Dennis Arnold said he is "amazed at how many people own growlers." He's been selling "jugs" (as he calls growlers) since 1993 and said the sale of jugs has "always been really good." Rather than fill a growler at the bar, Barrio exchanges a prefilled jug for an empty one (preferring to prefill growlers during slow times). However, Barrio will refill a jug you bring in if you want to keep that particular one.
Arnold said an unopened growler will stay good for months. Once the container is opened, oxygen gets to the beer and it will lose carbonation. An opened growler should be consumed in a day or two.
Large beer retailers, such as Total Wine & More and Whole Foods, have gotten into the act. Robert Davies, Whole Foods regional beer and wine manager, said growlers are "an exciting new area" and allow Whole Foods to "sell really high quality and seasonal beers to the public."
In Tucson, the Whole Foods on Speedway has six taps; the new River Road store 24. The Oracle Road under construction store will probably have 24 as well.
Davies said each store has a great deal of autonomy in selecting beers. They strive to "keep a good mix" of beer styles and stress local beers, usually keeping one-third to one-half of the beers local. They just added Ten-55 Brewing to the rotation.
Whole Foods also likes the positive environmental impact of growlers, he said. Once the container has been made, it can be reused endlessly.
To comply with laws on open containers in vehicles, Whole Foods applies electrical tape around the growler cap after filling. As long as the tape is intact, the growler isn't "open" in a vehicle.
Tip to growler purveyors: A product called Craftap purports to fill a 64-ounce growler in 60 seconds using the "counter-pressure method."
Barrio Brewing's Tucson Blonde should be in cans on store shelves around town. Arnold expected it to be available by mid-June. This is the first beer to be canned in Tucson in a long time. He plans to follow with other Barrio beers.
Paul Pedersen writes a monthly column on Tucson's beer scene. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org