A growler is a glass, ceramic, metal or plastic jug used to transport draught beer. Commonly sold at breweries, brewpubs or growler filling stations as a means to sell take-out beer. The exploding growth of craft breweries and the growing popularity of home brewing has also led to an emerging market for the sale of growlers. Beer growlers are generally made of glass and have either a screw-on cap or a hinged porecelain gasket cap. A properly filled and sealed growler will provide a seal as good and even better than a bottled beer cap and can keep beer fresh indefinitely. Growlers began as buckets or pails and have evolved into a variety of styles and materials. Some modern beer growlers come equipped with caps that have a valve to allow O2 purge and replacement CO2 lost when opening.
Before bottled beer became economical and common (especially after the widespread use of pasteurization in the mid-1800's) in the U.S., if one wanted beer outside of the saloon, it was usually draught beer filled and carried out in a beer growler, aka a "pail" or "bucket" of beer.
Many different containers (including pitchers, other pottery or glass jars and jugs, etc) were used to carry beer home or to work - the most common "growler" was a 2 quart galvanized or enameled pail. Pitchers and jugs, however, though not as nostalgically romantic, were also routinely be referred to as "Growlers".
Children were employed by parents and others to "Rush the Growler" (or "Rush the Can"). Adults also were "Bucket Boys" or "Kesseljunges" (a German term apparently used in Milwaukee in particular). Notched poles were used by the "boy" to carry the beer growlers back to the workplace. The beer in a growler was sold as a "pint" but most bartenders by tradition filled a growler with almost a quart of beer- the excess space taken up by the generous head on the beer. During the early 20th century when the "nickel beer" was standard, a growler fill was commonly 5-15 cents.
Shortly after opening Otto Brothers' Brewing Company (now known as Grand Teton Brewing Company) Wyoming's first modern draft-only microbrewery in 1988, the brothers succeeded in legalizing the brewpub in Wyoming which meant they could sell beer directly to their customers and they needed a to-go container.
Charlie Otto lamented to his father that customers needed a good way to take the beer home from the brewpub. In response, his father said "You need some sort of growler!" Perplexed, Charlie asked, "What the heck is a growler?"
His father remembered and told them about a pre-Prohibition container called a growler. The New England lidded tin pail was filled at the local tavern and then this fresh beer was brought home for his father (Charlie's grandfather). Intrigued, Charlie investigated, and soon found an old growler in his father's attic. These covered pails were quite possibly called "growlers" because the lid made a rumbling sound as the carbon dioxide escaped from under the lid.
The light clicked on! Knowing that the health department might be more inclined to allow a glass container instead of a metal pail, Charlie moved forward, single-handedly bringing growlers back into modern usage. In 1989 he bought a small Atlas hand silk screener and began silk screening 1/2 gallon glass cider jugs with the brewery logo. These jugs were filled and re-filled at the brewery and liquor stores around town. And the rest, as they say, is history! Today, the use of glass growlers by beer patrons has significantly reduced the amount of cans and bottles going into the trash each year.
While 64 U.S. fl oz is the most popular beer growler size, growlers are commonly found in 32 U.S. fl oz, 128 U.S. fl oz, 1-liter, 2-liter sizes and 3-liter as well. The two most popular colors for growlers are amber or clear. Glass handles are the most common type of handle for growlers, although metal handles are more common with the German made porcelain lid versions. Some growlers do not have handles – this is especially common with growlers smaller than 64 U.S. fl oz such as the 32 oz Boston rounds.