The Growler

A growler is a reusable bottle with a removable and replaceable cap. Growlers are usually 32 or 64 ounces. In general, they are designed to take into a bewery or other seller of beers and get fresh kegged beer on tap to go. There are a number of reasons to try this. One of those is because beer on tap tastes better.

Okay, I can hear all of you who drink beer in a casino, or in Florida, or at softball game, saying “No it doesn’t. Draft beer tastes like crap.” This is not the fault of the beer. It is the fault of the brewery and the establishment. They have not cleaned their lines. Beer is a living thing, or at least it contains living things, and if the lines that carry the beer from the keg to the tap are not cleaned once a week, nasty stuff that you can taste will grow in there.

The phenomenon of the unclean line has single-handedly turned thousands of people off draft beer, and convinced many other poor souls that the only decent beer is Budweiser out of a bottle. You know why if you’ve ever tasted beer out of an unclean line. I’ve seen the snake of organic material that comes out of those lines, and I’m surprised that I still drink anything at all. So the first thing you have to ascertain is whether anyone is cleaning the lines or not at your chosen watering hole. Once you find a clean bar, it is time to start tasting some draft beers.

Many beers, especially those with strong malts and high alcohol contents, can age like wine. However, hop bitterness begins to oxidate and disappear as soon as the beer is transferred from the tank where it was born. So too go Hefeweizens, and even more rapidly. As far as I know, it is impossible to find a good Hefe in a bottle. That’s why they add a bunch of fruit and spice to beers like Blue Moon, to cover for the fact that the delicious natural flavor present in true Belgian yeasts doesn’t last for a second once they jam it in a bottle and seal a cap on it. That’s why Widmer Hefeweizen used to be available only on tap in Portland, and why it used to taste like liquid gold. It’s also why it began to suck immediately after Budweiser bought it out and started bottling it. All the magic has gone by the time you put your lips to it.

In order to truly enjoy a good Hefe, you had better get close to the source, wait for a fresh batch, and then drink it off the tap. If you drink in bars, fine. If you like to drink in the privacy and safety of your own home, how do you do it? The growler, that’s how. You won’t waste any bottles, or any beer (hopefully), and when you’re ready for another round, trot your growler down to your chosen watering hole and get them to fill it up for you. The carbonation and flavor won’t last for long, but it shouldn’t anyway, because you should be drinking it before it has a chance to go flat.

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