As most of you are aware there has been a lot of buzz around growlers in Massachusetts after the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission’s (ABCC) advisory regarding breweries ability to fill growlers that are entirely blank (you can read the ABCC’s advisory here). Following that announcement, we posted our thoughts and policies on Facebook, Twitter, and our blog (you can read our blog post on the topic here, if you’re interested). A number of people wrote to us, posted, and Tweeted their opinions on growlers and our policy. We weighed the feedback we received, our own opinions on growlers, and, most importantly, what’s best for the beer. After careful thought and consideration we’ve decided to eliminate growlers altogether around the early fall timeframe. Instead we will be packaging more of our beers in 16oz bottles and selling those out of the taproom.
This is something we’ve been mulling over for a long time and the time seems right to make the leap. From a brewery and consumer point of view, there are a number of issues with growlers:
- Filling growlers exposes the beer to the air and oxygen is, probably, the biggest enemy to beer freshness (and there tends to be a fair amount of oxygen in the air). While we do flush the growlers with CO2 prior to filling them it is nearly impossible to get all of the air out of the growler and when beer contacts air it immediately begins to oxidize and develop stale flavors. When we bottle our beers our bottling line removes all of the air from the bottle, purges the bottle with CO2, fills it with beer, and then caps it direct from our unitank fermenters. The first time the beer touches the air is when it is opened by the consumer and that means fresher beer.
- Growlers aren’t air tight, which means that carbonation bleeds off leaving the beer flat and that… well… that just sucks. Sure, there are instances when weeks old growlers are popped open and they are perfectly carbonated, but that isn’t the norm. We see pictures posted on social media of people showing off their glass Bog Iron beer and the beer is flat and lifeless. Not a great customer experience.
- Bottles keep much longer than growlers. While we still recommend that you drink most of our beers fresh, especially the IPAs, you can keep bottles for a longer period of time without the degradation that you would experience with growler-filled beer. And once you open a growler you have to finish it.
- There is nothing to remember. How many times have you gotten to the brewery only to remember that you forgot your growlers at home and had to either buy new ones or go home to retrieve them? That’s not a problem with bottles… drink the beer, recycle the bottle, and stop in to buy more. If you already have a collection of growlers and don’t want any more, bottles are a great alternative to that as well.
- Once a growler is open you have to consume the whole thing. Sure, you can reseal it and go back to it the next day, but by then it is flat, stale, and not great. When you open a growler you really have to be in a place and have the time to drink a liter of beer. 16oz bottles are a pint and who doesn’t have time for a pint?
- While a lot of our customers have expressed their love for growlers, the bottles are slightly cheaper per ounce, so that means you can buy more beer… and who doesn’t love more beer?
The last paragraph notwithstanding, there are some positives about growlers (we’re not entirely down on them). Growlers are a great packaging option for new and upcoming breweries. Just about every brewery in the state has served their beer in growlers at some point. They make it possible for people to take beer home in a package that is cheap and convenient. We’ll always have a special place in our heart for the growlers, but I think it’s time for us to move on. They’ve been a loyal packaging option for a long time and they’ve served us well, but the beer and the customers deserve something better.
“Wait”, you say, “I have all these growlers that I’ve purchased over the past 4 years. What am I supposed to do with those?” We’re planning a buy back of your used growlers to recycle them. The buy back will be phased in over time and we’ll be announcing the plans on Facebook, Twitter, and in our taproom, so watch for that.