There’s something special about enjoying a fresh draft beer in the comfort of your own home. To do that, you need something to bring that beer home from your favorite local brewery (unless, of course, you’re a home brewer). Growlers are the reusable vessels that make this dream a reality. The process seems so simple: You take a growler into your favorite taproom, they fill it with beer, and you take it home to enjoy.
The problem is, it’s not that simple. You want the beer in your growler to taste like the brewer intended, and that requires planning, a little elbow grease, and a solid understanding of how a good beer can turn bad.
Types of Growlers
Let’s start with the growler itself. Growlers come in many different shapes, sizes, and materials. The most common are glass jugs, but stainless steel and ceramic growlers are also popular options. No matter what type of growler you have, you need to keep it clean. Many taprooms will clean the growler before filling it, but don’t leave that to chance. Make sure you take a clean growler with you to get a fill-up.
How to Clean a Growler
If your growler has a wide mouth, the cleaning process is pretty straightforward. All it takes is a minute or two of actual cleaning time, then enough time for the growler to properly dry.
- After you’ve consumed the beer, rinse the growler well with hot water, then get in there with soap and water.
- Rinse again, and let air dry (preferably upside down to drain excess water).
- Decide which brewery you’re going to visit to fill up your now-clean growler.
See? Cleaning a growler is as simple as one, two, three.
Regardless of growler shape or size, cleaning will be easier right after the beer is consumed and before there is any hardened residue to remove. If you’ve waited and gunk has developed, simply soak the growler in a soapy solution to loosen it up.
Tools for Cleaning Growlers
- Angled bottle brush: If you have a growler with a small top or rounded sides, investing in an angled bottle brush is a good idea. These brushes allow you to scrub the bottom of the growler and get into the interior curves, ensuring you’ve cleaned the entire surface.
- Starsan: If you’re a homebrewer, you’re already no stranger to Starsan, the acid-based no-rinse sanitizer. It’s good to have some on hand if you want to give your growler an extra cleaning (or if it’s been sitting empty for a while).
Don’t Forget the Growler Caps
Growler caps deserve a special note of attention. Most smallmouth glass growlers come with a metal screw-on cap with a thin foam layer inside. It is very difficult to get these caps clean enough for re-use. A bad seal or bacterial infection from an unclean cap could ruin your full growler of beer and isn’t worth the risk. When in doubt, throw it out.
You can buy a 100-pack of these caps for around $15 from your homebrew shop or online retailers. If you don’t like the environmental aspect of discarding caps, polycarbonate caps are also available. These are easier to clean and won’t rust over time like the metal caps.
Also, store your growlers with the lid off (and upside down if possible) to keep anything from accumulating in the empty jug.
When getting your growler filled, ideally, the bartender will sanitize the bottle and purge oxygen with CO2. Once the growler is firmly capped, do not open it until you’re ready to drink the beer. Once the bottle is opened, the carbonation is released and oxygen is introduced, which will compromise the taste and quality of the beer over time. So when you pour that delicious, draft beer from your growler, settle in to enjoy the experience in a single setting.