Found a beer at a local taproom that you really love? Great! Take some home to enjoy later.
Some breweries sell their beer in bottles and cans to take with you, but often times not all of their beer selection is available prepackaged.
But there is good news – if that special beer you fell in love with isn’t for sale as such, they probably will sell you a jug full to take home. Take a look around the taproom and you’ll probably see some branded jugs, most likely made of brown glass, just waiting to be filled.
Those handy bottles are sold in units that are common in the beer industry, but may be a bit of a mystery to new comers to the craft beer scene.
So just what is a beer bomber, growler or howler?
The short answer:
- Growler = 64 ounces
- Howler = 32 ounces
- Crowler = 32 ounces in a can
- Bomber = 22 ounces in a large bottle
But there are differences beyond just the size of the beer container. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of them.
What Is A Beer Growler?
Growlers are the most common way for craft breweries to sell their draft beer for carryout. A growler is 64 oz (ounces), which is also a half gallon, and the largest of the take-home units. Unopened, you can keep your growler in the fridge for about 5-7 days.
Most growlers are a brown glass jug, however, you may see stainless steel or even ceramic versions.
You’ll get about 4 pints of beer from a full growler. Or approximately 5-6 glasses if you don’t pour your beer all the way to the top of your pint glass.
An average price to purchase a growler from the brewery is about $4-7. To fill the growler with beer, it will cost you another $10-25, depending upon the type of beer.
Some breweries occasionally run specials where they only charge for the beer and promote something like “Free growler with fill.” Most craft breweries stock brown glass jugs, either plain or with their logo printed on it.
You can also purchase your own generic growler. There are stainless steel and ceramic versions – and you can even get yours personalized. The stainless steel versions are insulated and also much less fragile than their glass counterparts.
If you collect stickers from breweries, you can place them on your growler, like how some folks add stickers to their water bottles.
What Is A Howler?
A howler is 32 oz (ounces) and yields approximately 2 pint glasses of beer. It’s a “half growler,” hence the name howler.
Sometimes they look like a smaller version of the growler jugs and sometimes they look like basically large canning jars. Howlers are becoming more popular because their smaller size translates to a lower price.
Howlers are also great if you won’t be able to drink an entire growler within a couple of days after opening it.
Howlers are also referred to as bullets, growlettes, baby growlers.
What Is A Crowler?
A crowler is 32 ounces in a can. That’s a howler of liquid goodness in a sealed metal carrier.
The theory behind the crowler is that keeping it sealed in a metal can will keep it fresher longer. They also don’t have issues with being exposed to light, as glass jugs do. Unopened cans will stay fresh for a few weeks, which is definitely an advantage over its glass counterparts.
Crowlers are great options because you don’t have to plan ahead. Spontaneous taproom visits can be a bummer when you’ve forgotten your own growler or howler, but you don’t want to add yet another container to your shelves at home.
Because crowlers aren’t reusable, the price advertised for the crowler includes the beer and the can together.
In addition, crowlers are much more travel friendly. You’ll be able to take home some of that awesome beer you discovered on your most recent vacation.
Plus the can version of your beer will be much lighter than if it were in glass. A bonus is you want to stash a beer in your backpack to enjoy at summit of your hike.
However, once you open a crowler you can’t reseal it like you can a growler or howler, so be prepared to drink it once the top has been popped.
Because crowlers require special equipment to seal the can, they aren’t as prominent in small breweries.
As they become more popular with the beer consumer, the crowler trend may continue to rise. You’ll find lots of articles by beer fanatics singing the praises of the crowler.
What Is a Beer Bomber?
A beer bomber is a large 22 ounce bottle. Some beer drinkers call anything above the standard 12 oz size a “bomber,” while purists insist a bomber is 22 oz.
Bombers are sold as singles by breweries and bottle shops.
You may find prefilled bombers for sale at craft breweries. Bombers are often used for special release or rare beers.
This size can be problematic. Often the special release or rare beers sold in bombers are ones that are not “sessionable” (meaning something you want to sip on all night). But once the bomber top is off it should be consumed.
Beer bombers are best shared with friends over a meal or a tasting type event.
Frequently Asked Questions About Beer Growlers
How to clean a growler?
Once you’ve gotten to the bottom of your growler, rinse with hot water. Swirl the water around a few times to be sure you’ve gotten the sides clean.
It may sound counter intuitive, but don’t use soap. It’s tough to get all the soap removed, and if you don’t your next beer will taste soapy. Rinse of the cap, too, and let the growler air dry completely and store the growler with the cap off to allow for air circulation.
Some breweries and draft beer sellers will not fill a growler you bring in, but rather trade it in for a sanitized one. However, most are fine refilling your growler as long as it appears clean.
Can I use a different brewery’s growler?
Most breweries want to sell their beer and will be fine filling a generic growler or one branded with a different brewery – with the caveat the growler you bring to their taproom is clean.
However, some breweries will only fill their own growlers because they use a special sanitation process before filling. You can usually bring back a branded growler from their brewery, but instead of refilling that one they will trade it for a sanitized one.
If you find a brewery says it will not fill outside growlers, the sanitization of the glassware is typically the reason.
If you’re not sure about the policy of a specific brewery, check their website. Or leave your growler in the car while you’re tasting beer, and then ask the bartender before getting the growler from your trunk.
How long is beer good once growler is open?
Once you unscrew the top of your growler, it will start to lose the carbonation. The first day you open the beer it will be fresh, but it will go flat relatively quickly. Even after recapping the beer, you’ll only have a day or two tops before it has lost integrity.
Summary of Beer Containers
Whether it’s in a growler, howler, crowler or bomber, taking home a favoritie beer is a great way to support your local brewery. Howlers are great alternatives as they are not as large as growlers, but the portability of crowlers makes them our favorite take-home beer option.