Growlers are a touchy subject here in Florida. We are banned from filling half-gallon growlers but are allowed to purchase two one-quart or even gallon growlers. And, until recently, it was impossible – or at least very difficult – to get a growler filled at a liquor or package store.
But, those are all regulatory issues that are either being attacked by the brewers and beer-lovers of the state or have already been rectified. The charge on growler size is being spear-headed by Jacksonville’s Ben Davis of Intuition Ale Works. And the ABC store at the corner of San Jose and Sunbeam is now offering 12 draft beers for fills of quart-sized growlers.
Growler culture is an odd thing. People love the convenience of being able to take home a freshly poured bottle of beer, but do not seem to know how long it will keep after they get it home. Another disturbing behavior regarding growlers is the state in which they are returned to tap rooms and fill stations. They should be clean, but often are a smelly, residue-laden mess.
For the uninitiated, beer is an extremely finicky liquid. Exposure to air and light can cause great damage to it ranging from slightly off flavors to absolute skunkiness. Likewise for heat, while the damage may be less severe when a cold beer is allowed to warm to room temperature than allowing a beer to sit in a car baking under the Florida sun for several hours, there is going to be some degradation. Also, beer is easily infected by bacteria that, you guessed it, can lead to a good beer going bad.
So, how should you treat your growler full of delicious, freshly-tapped beer? Well, with great care, of course! And by that we mean follow these simple rules:
- After filling, go home and put your growler in the refrigerator or carry a cooler with ice in it to keep it cold.
- Consume the beer within two weeks.
- Once you open the growler, your beer will quickly go flat, so finish it within two or three days.
- Once empty, immediately rinse well with hot water and air dry.
- Never use soap or put in the dishwasher – this will affect the beer’s head.
- Insist the filler use a new cap every time you get your growler filled.
Please note the third item on the above list. Bringing a dirty growler back to a fill station could result in them filling your unclean (and probably infected) growler with beer without rinsing it. This can only lead to trouble when good beer comes in contact with the remains of your last fill. It is a simple matter to rinse the growler after it is empty, just do it! You will thank me later.
If you love craft beer, want to try more of it or share it with friends, the growler can be a real convenience. Just swing by any of the local breweries or ABC on San Jose and choose a beer you would like to try. But, be sure to follow the simple rules above and you are sure to enjoy the taste of fresh draft beer at home.