In this week’s Foodist column from Bon Appetit, Oliver notes that brewers “tend to hate [growlers]”. He goes on to explain that growlers are “beer destroyers” and he likens the purchase of a growler to someone scraping a plate of food from a nice restaurant into a bag, putting it in the fridge for three days, microwaving it, and then eating it. Mmm…appetizing!
As is usually the case with Oliver, he actually does make some good points in the midst of his rant (in which he claims to speak for the entire brewing world, by the way). Yes, growlers are an imperfect vessel for storing beer. Yes, beer stored in a clear growler that is exposed to direct sunlight (even for a very short period of time) will skunk quickly. Yes, the filling of a growler injects oxygen into the beer which can negatively affect the flavor. These are valid points and I appreciate Mr. Oliver using his pulpit to explain to people that growlers are not meant for long-term storage of beer.
But here’s the thing…EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT! Nobody buys a growler with plans to drink it a few weeks later. You buy a growler to drink it THAT DAY! The beer in a growler comes directly from the tap. That’s not a secret…you actually WATCH the bartender pour it. Why would anyone think that draft beer could sit in a container indefinitely? It’s a straw-man argument. Oliver notes that:
A brewery will tell you to drink it within a day or two, but plans change. By the time you get around to actually drinking the beer, the chance that the growler will be anywhere close to as perfect as the brewer feels he was able to make it is pretty low.
Look, I recognize that my social calendar probably isn’t quite as full as “the world’s foremost brewer”, but my plans really don’t change quite that dramatically. Unlike Brewmaster Oliver, I usually get around to drinking my beer roughly five minutes after I get home with my growler. I can say, with no hyperbole, that I’ve NEVER had beer left in a growler the next day. They aren’t things you really buy on a whim. When you buy a growler, it’s because you (and your friends, hopefully) have every intention of consuming that sucker within a few hours. A growler is a take-out container…nothing more. Like I said in an earlier post, you don’t get pizza delivered to your house with the intention of eating it a week later. You eat it that night (and sometimes for breakfast the next morning). So fine, Oliver is right that it’s unfair to complain about the flavor of beer in a three-day old growler, but what kind of person waits three goddamn days to drink a growler?!?! WHY did you even buy a growler if you didn’t plan on drinking it immediately?!?!
Sigh…this story is a microcosm of most of Garrett Oliver’s interviews. He’s a supremely knowledgeble beer expert and nothing he says is truly false on the surface. But, as always, he can’t seem to sit down for an interview without making some pompous, preposterous claim. In this one, he makes statements about the way most people consume growlers that are just plain ridiculous. As he so often does, he treats the beer drinking populace like idiots. “You people…you’re always filling up growlers, letting them sit for a week, and then getting mad that your beer isn’t fresh.” No…we aren’t doing that. We’re drinking our growlers the day we purchase them and they taste just fine, thank you.
As for his claim to speak for all brewers in his hatred of the 64-ounce vessels. Just take a look at the comments after the article to see how well that’s sitting with most Aleheads.
Growlers are just fine, people. They’re like gremlins. Don’t expose them to sunlight. Drink them before midnight. Don’t pour water on them (not sure why you’d ever do that last one). If you follow those rules, everything else is cream cheese.