Piney River Brewing Company

What the heck IS a growler?

In The Beer on March 8, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Well, here’s a Piney River Brewing Company growler.

These are half-gallon glass containers that hold beer.

According to the Alstrom Brothers at Beer Advocate:  In the late 1800s and early 1900s, fresh beer was carried from the local pub to one’s home by means of a small-galvanized pail. Rumor has it that when the beer sloshed around the pail, it created a rumbling sound as the CO2 escaped through the lid, thus the term “growler” was coined.

Before World War II, city kids used to bring covered buckets of draft beer from a local bar or brewery to workers at lunchtime or to their parents at dinnertime, a practice called “rushing the growler.”

In the 50s and 60s, waxed cardboard containers with lids were used to take home beer – it’s said that they were round and resembled take-out Chinese soup containers. And in many US states, it used to be (and still is) illegal for “liquor stores” to be open on Sunday. So if you wanted beer on Sunday you went to a bar and bought some of these “containers” of draft beer. However by the late 60s many bars had switched to plastic and eventually they were allowed to sell packaged beer after hours. Soon after, many states allowed Sunday sales at liquor stores and the concept of the growler soon died.

In the early 80s, Newman Brewing in Albany, NY used to sell soft plastic gallon containers of their beer. Apparently if you brought the empty back to the brewery, they’d replenish it with more beer.

A claim to the modern day growler states that in 1989, Charlie Otto and his father were discussing the dilemma facing the Otto Brothers Brewery. They wanted to offer “beer-to-go” for their local customers, but they were not yet in a position to bottle. Father Otto suggested the use of “growlers,” which were used in his younger days, but Charlie recognized the need for an updated package type. He purchased a small silkscreen machine, and set it up on his patio. Soon he was silk-screening his logo on half-gallon glass bottles that resembled moonshine jugs. The modern-day “growler” was introduced.

George Bulvas III, brewmaster at Water Street Lake County Brewery, WI, suggests that growlers are named for the buckets of beer once given to factory workers before their stomachs began to “growl” from hunger.

Whatever. Nowadays, a growler is simply a glass jug that carries a half-gallon of beer.

You can buy a growler full of Piney River Brewing Company craft beer for $14.  The growler is yours to keep, and you can bring it back for a refill for only $8.

A growler comes with a special lid that helps keep the carbonation in the jug.  The beer needs to be kept cold, and after the jug is opened the beer needs to be consumed within two to three days because it will begin to go flat.  Chances are, if you have a PRBC growler in your fridge, it will growl at you, and there’s no way that beer will sit around and go flat.

We will be filling growlers at the brewery on Sat., Mar. 12th from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  We have Ozark Firefly Wheat and Bronzeback Pale Ale on tap.  Remember, we’re still under construction, but we’re happy to share our craft beer with you.

And, since I’ve started selling growlers, I’ve learned that growlers can also be used to hold loose change and to start conversation.  Really, how many things are out there that say “Bucyrus, Missouri” on them?


  1. We live on the Piney River in middle Tennessee. Would love to have one of your growlers for a keepsake. Is there anyway I can purchase the bottle itself?
    p.s would love to taste the beer but believe TN laws won’t allow the shipment.

    • Janet–Unfortunately we cannot ship beer to you, but we would love to get a growler to you. If you can send us your zip code, we can check on the cost of shipping. An empty growler is $6. We also have pint glasses that have the logo in red (clear glasses) for $4 each. We also have organic cotton, khaki colored hats with the logo in red for $15. E-mail your zip code to, and he’ll figure out the cost of shipping for whatever you are interested in. Thanks so much for your interest, and if you’re ever in the Ozarks, come by and have a pint! Cheers! –Joleen

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