The Growler Evolution during the Craft Beer Revolution

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Before the Craft Beer Revolution in the early 1980’s, beer growlers weren’t technically growlers at all…

Some of the earliest forms of beer transportation vessels were hand-thrown clay jugs that the Egyptians used during the building of the pyramids. The Egyptians would sometimes pay their workers in beer in exchange for their labor.  Over the years these vessels evolved to what growlers are today.

The term “growler” refers to the small lunch pail that coal miners would take to work everyday with them on their shift.  After the day was done that same miners would take their empty lunch pales down to the local tavern and have them waxed and filled with draft beer. The growler would allow transportation of the beverage for at-home enjoyment and the wax applied at the seam would keep the beer fresh, sealed, and air tight. No one likes flat beer, even in those days! Some breweries like the Yuengling & Sons Brewery and the Christahlmann Brewery contacted lunch pail container makers like Lee See Inc. (who later became a prominent beer sign manufacturer in the 1940’s) to produce lunch pail growlers with the brewery’s name embossed on the lid. Kaiers Brewery also created stoneware Crocker beer transportation at that time too.

Lunch boxes, stoneware crocks, and glass vessels all served as suitable primitive growlers from the 1930’s to around the 1970’s.  The growler changed forms over the years but was never really refined specifically for beer.

The Craft Beer Revolution

In the 1980’s when micro breweries and the craft beer revolution started; the only way to take home delicious “Nectar of the Gods” craft beer was in a primitive 1 gallon glass small-batch wine vessel with a metal screw-on lid. With this new craft beer craze sweeping across the country, breweries began to rethink and develop new and easier ways for patrons to take their beers home.

In the 1990’s as craft beer took a foot hold in the beer market with more and more micro and nano breweries popping up, beer drinkers began to see growler designs begin to evolve.  These new growers were glass jugs with wide mouths, swing-top porcelain lids, and large metal handles. They were easier to clean and were a lot more convenient then the glass jug and metal cap growlers previously used although not completely phased out and still widely used to this day.

Growlers of today come in all shapes and sizes; although the most classic growlers used are still the glass ones with swing-top lids.  Within the past few years we’re seen the growler revolution switch to metal double-wall insulated “Hydroflasks”, some even sporting a co2 infusion lid and beer tap out the front. Some breweries like Stone and Dogfish Head make limited release collectors growlers out of artisan glass and stoneware.

Fairly recently a few new growler designs have become very popular among beer drinkers, breweries, and bottle shops alike. Except these growlers aren’t growlers at all… They are “crowlers”.

The crowler was invented by a Colorado-based brewery by the name of Oskar Blues Brewing Company located in Longmont, CO.  This new “can” growler looks like a beer can and a growler had a love child together; and is now known as a crowler.  It is basically a large 32 oz can that can be filled at a brewery or tavern and then lidded and crimped with a special lidding machine. The crowler can be stored in the fridge for months at a time before it’s ready to be enjoyed. The common glass growlers have a shelf life of about few weeks in the fridge. The only downside to the crowler is it isn’t resealable; once opened it’s meant to be enjoyed immediately. Once used, the crowler can can be recycled and maybe become a crowler again in another life.

Here are a few local PA breweries and bars that fill Crowlers:

  • Snitz Creek Brewing Company
  • St. Boniface Craft Brewing Company
  • Slyfox Brewing Company
  • Barley Mow Brewhouse
  • Liberty Alehouse
  • Paradise by the Slice

Below is a video of how a crowler is filled and capped at the St. Boniface Craft Brewing Co. located in Ephrata, PA:

With the rise of these new crowlers to the beer and brewery market; naturally it has sparked a collecting hobby with younger as well as older collectors. More and more people are beginning to collect crowlers similar to the way people used to collect beer cans during the 1970’s.  A lot of the designs and artwork on these new crowlers can be very attractive too and highly collectible.

Below are a few examples of new and very collectible crawler cans: