On tap this week: A word or two about growler cleaning

Before we get to growlers, an update on the taps. Only a couple of kegs left of the BeetAleJuice. We should run out by the end of the week. Also, Tepache will be going on hiatus soon, as the summer cools off. Only a couple kegs left until next summer. Otherwise, we have plenty of Rye IPA, CDA, West Coast IPA, Pale, Wheated Red and Bee’s Wine. Coming soon: Imperial IPA #2, and Estate Wet Hopped Pale! Now, something preachy:

With the rise of nano-breweries, bars, convenience stores and Walgreens (?!?!?) filling growlers as a great way to take beer home, people are using half gallon glass and stainless steel jugs to carry beer a lot more than they used to. It’s a fantastic thing. Breweries get a little advertising, and those of us too tiny to justify the cost of bottling can offer people an option for going home with our beer. We’ve got a problem, though, and we need to talk about it. While most growlers that show up at the tap room are acceptably clean, I get quite a few disgusting growlers. Many breweries will refuse to fill a dirty growler. I’d prefer not to refuse service, so I’m going to try standing on my soap box instead.

After being open 6 months, I’ve smelled a lot of vile, stomach churning and unhealthy situations inside growler jugs. I’ve been handed growlers with black mold inside caps and on the bottom of the inside of the jug, Mysterious slimes have oozed out from inside. I’ve been handed some that were used as tobacco spittoons, and even an ashtray. Sometimes they smell like the last beer it was filled with, sometimes like a ripe sour beer, sometimes straight vinegar or buttery bacterial funk.

The prevailing attitude is that a dirty growler only affects the person buying it. Not true. Health issues aside, if I pour my beer, which tastes exactly like it does because I worked hard to make it so, into a sour or moldy growler, my beer then tastes tainted by mold or bacteria or wild yeast. If you take it to a party, everyone then thinks my beer tastes this way, because nobody is going to say, “I brought Standard’s IPA to your party, but just so ya know, my growler smelled like well aged cheese when I brought it in.” Perhaps you’re the only one drinking from the growler, so this doesn’t apply? Well, a dirty growler also affects the people that fill after it. In order to reduce foam, most places use a silicone tube to bottom fill the growler. If it comes into contact with a funky growler, we then transfer bugs to the next person’s beer, which can grow over time to populations detectable in the beer, even making people sick sometimes.

It is understandable that once in a while, perhaps after drinking the whole growler yourself, you might forget to deal with the sanitation part of your growler relationship. As a courtesy combating a typical level of neglect, we at Standard Brewing have a policy of rinsing and dunking growlers in a sanitizer briefly before filling to protect the next guy from potential growler funk. Still, nothing short of bleach will really cure a mold issue, which is one of the most common problems, and a quick dunk in sanitizer only deals with very minor problems. A severe problem (one detectable on the nose) requires a solid cleaning involving a bottle brush and a few minutes, which will hold up the line at a tiny brewery.

So how do you care for a growler? It’s easy.

1. Keep it cold until it’s clean. Any bacteria or yeast will be mostly dormant at cold temps, but very happy about breeding at room temps.

2. After finishing the beer, triple rinse with hot water and drain upside down until dry. So long as nothing has really bred inside, this will kick the vast majority of the nasties out, and drying will make it inhospitable until you refill it. Leave the cap off until you bring it in to make sure it is as dry as possible. Putting the cap on traps any moisture and turns the growler into a petri dish. Also, running it through the dishwasher isn’t really very helpful, because the mouth is so small.

3. Stick your nose inside and sniff before bringing it in. If it smells like anything other than air, it needs to be cleaned. Soak it in Oxyclean, bleach water, or at least dish soap, then thoroughly rinse again before bringing it in. The least amount of bleach or soap residue will be detectable in the beer.

Thanks for listening, and we hope to fill your clean, non-smelly growler soon!