Understanding the Growler

Before you ask, let’s get a couple of things straight: No; “growler” is not another way to describe the sound a bear makes. And no; a “growler” is not the word to describe your rather cheeky uncle. A growler is a container specifically used to transport and secure the freshness of beer. The many forms it has taken have changed throughout history as have the sizes, but one thing has remained forever constant: the want and desire to secure the freshness of a poured draft from the comfort of home.

When the concept was first thought of, it was for labor working adults to bring home with them the enjoyments of the local pub rather than spending hours at a time on unfamiliar soil. With the mass production of bottling and canning beer, much of the rich history and call for the need of this service faded with time. With the uprise of craft beers, the demand for freshly poured and freshly tapped beer became an increasing want once again. Many argued the taste of bottled or canned beer was nothing compared to a freshly poured draft, which brought about the rebirth of the growler.

First documented in the late 1800s, these containers transported only two quarts of beer, with an exponentially heavier weight. Originally, these were no flashier than a pail, usually made from galvanized steel or tin. These pails were topped with a sort of makeshift lid to maintain the freshness of the draft and of course, to keep all the goodness within the pail rather than on the ground. By the 1950s, waxed cardboard jugs had replaced the tin pail and a decade later, plastic was introduced to the world. With the advantages of plastic and the newly founded permission to sell pre-packaged beer, growlers faded into history for the trade-off of mass production.

It’s unclear who is considered the original genius who came up with the first “carry-home” beer, but those responsible for the rebirth of the growler are far easier to identify. The growler as we know and love today was crafted back into existence by the Otto brothers, Charlie and Ernie, in the late 1980s. Founding their draft-only microbrewery, Otto Brothers’ Brewing Company, in Wyoming, the pair sought to show off and expand the popularity of craft beer – freshly tasted. In 1989, they stumbled across the old forgotten concept of the growler and reworked it in modern fashion from tin to glass. Slapping on their brewery logo to the side of the glass jugs, Otto Brothers’ Brewing Company was take-home ready and without realizing it, was taking the world by storm as well.

Far from remaining construed to the original confines of two quarts only, the glass growler can be found today in 32-ounce and 64-ounce containers. These glass containers are filled directly from the tap and topped with a twist cap to seal in the freshness and contain enjoyment for up to 10 days. The craft beer industry has even gone a step farther with the reintroduction of growlers by adding their logos and designs to make them collectibles. Individuals now can get custom growlers designed with their favorite sports team’s logo or monogrammed for their wedding or other events. These glass growlers are ecologically friendly and with growler filling stations now open, economically friendly as well. Easy to get, easy to use, and reuse again – the quality of the growler has been upgraded astronomically for modern-day draft beer enjoyment.

However, when it comes to growlers, the most frequently sought fact is the one that has never truly been confirmed: why is it called a growler?

There are many theories as to where the name originated from, all far more entertaining than the next. One such theory is the original tin pails made a grumbling noise as some of the CO2 sneaked out of the lid. Another theory suggests the name “growler” came from the constant growling between the bartender, busy with customers already present, and the customer, wanting their two quarts to go. Yet another describes the growling to come from the sound a full pail made as it was shoved down a bar. Or the “growler” came from the sound of hungry bellies as workers received their pail of beer at lunchtime. Some even say that the “growler” was named after the person who consumed the pail and their grumpiness after the fact.

But from whatever reason it came, the CO2 or the body’s emotions, the growler is once again a vibrant force in the draft beer world. At Rumbling Bald’s picturesque lakeside dining option, Legends on the Lake, they have also embraced this new wave of beer enjoyment. With Legends’ Growler Program, you can obtain 64-ounces of fresh draft beer that is filled and sealed upon order. Legends offers an assortment of draft choices with seasonal fancies and rotating local favorites from breweries such as New Belgium. Check out current listings here. Each growler has a $7 deposit, which is refunded when the empty growler is returned. Growlers are then cleaned, sanitized, and reused for the next draft brew experience. Call 828.694.3038 or go by Legends to pick up your own.

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