HOW MANY NIGHTS have you arrived on a friend’s doorstep, six-pack in hand, hoping to kick back with a few beers, only to return days later and find four of those bottles still rolling around in the veggie crisper? A sad reminder indeed of an evening cut short—of counsel neither offered nor taken, and beer, sadly, not drunk.
Fortunately, Portlanders can easily spare themselves from this fate by punctuating their arrival with the resounding thud of an enormous four-pound flagon of brewery-fresh beer. Showing up with a conveniently handled, hefty jug of pub takeout known as the growler says quite plainly, to everyone within beershot, Let’s get to the bottom of this thing, my friends, right here and now.
“It’s like the horn of plenty,” says Mike De Kalb of Laurelwood Brewing, which sold some 3,000 growlers last year. “Once you open it, you gotta drink it down.”
Available at nearly every one of Portland’s 31 pub-licensed breweries for around $10 to $13, tap-filled growlers (refillable for $8 to $12) carry a festive yet practical four-pint ration of cold draft beer. They also allow us fortunate residents of Brewtopia in-home access to some of the finest undistributed beers being made in the country today—such as Pyramid’s pale Crystal Weizen or the creamy Belgian Brown Ale from Roots Organic Brewing—poured fresh from the tank, and never, ever skunked or stale.
According to beer-soaked folklorists, growlers received their name from the steel pails that were used in pre-Prohibition days to haul suds from the brewery, their poorly fitted lids grumbling above the foaming beer. With their spiffy screw-top caps, today’s brown glass growlers thankfully seal considerably better and can keep beers bubbly (if kept cold) for up to two weeks before opening.
At two to three bucks a pint (versus $1.99 a pint for a typical $8.99 six-pack of microbrews) refilling your growler, unfortunately, doesn’t offer up the same savings as, say, buying bulk maple syrup at the local food co-op. It does, however, allow you the chance to pour a round of your favorite ale or lager at happy-hour prices, no matter what time of the day or night you show up and plunk down your jug—and it’s guaranteed to be long gone before anybody reaches for one of those sad, puny bottles still rattling about in the fridge.