If you haven’t experienced the convenience of a crowler, you’re missing out. The crowler, or can-growler, is a 32-ounce can that takes the place of growlers in taprooms. It blew the lid off the shortcomings of the glass growler in 2013, and yet is still a concept somewhat foreign to those who don’t frequent brewery taprooms.
The first crowler was developed by Oskar Blues Brewery in partnership with the Ball Technology and Innovation Center in Westminster, Colo. When Oskar Blues introduced the revolutionary packaging in 2013, it blew people’s minds.
While the crowler container itself is a trademark of Ball, the sealing machine comes from Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry and is sold exclusively through Oskar Blues.
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“We saw a great opportunity to engage folks over the benefits of cans, as well as to possibly discontinue glass growlers ourselves,” Jeremy Rudolf, Oskar Blues “CANministrator” told craftbeer.com in 2015. “We put the machine in our Longmont tasting room and tested it out full time. It was an immediate hit.”
(It’s worth mentioning that Oskar Blues has been innoventing from day one. The company is also credited with being the first craft brewery to release beer in cans, beginning with Dale’s Pale Ale in 2002.)
Crowlers are favored over glass growlers because they’re cheaper, lighter, and can keep beer fresher longer. The countertop canning machine is also a cost-effective way for breweries large and small to get fresh, portable beers in patrons’ hands without owning or renting a canning or bottling line.
“They’re lighter, impermeable to oxygen and ultraviolet light, recyclable, and used only once, which means less chance of contamination,” Pete Lengyel, co-owner and brew commander at the Kings County Brewers Collective (KCBC) in Brooklyn, says. He also points out, “[They] are allowed more places than glass,” meaning more portability to picnics, beaches, and other outdoor/BYOB drinking situations.
The one-use-only factor is a point of contention for some, since it takes away the glass growler’s eco-friendly aspect. “That’s the only drawback … that it’s a one-time, one-way package,” Rudolf told Westword. “But as long as you are not a jerk, and you recycle it, it will become a can again in about a month.”
Crowlers are an easy way for taprooms to provide fresh beer to go, either in place of or supplementary to a canning line. However, Chad Melis, Oskar Blues spokesperson, points out the can-growler is not meant to sit on store shelves.
“This was designed for instant gratification,” Melis says. Crowlers are “for people who discover a great new beer and want to take it with them so they can drink it fresh and share it with friends.”
Although a relatively new concept, brewers across the country are selling crowlers in their taprooms, from dozens of Oskar Blues neighbors in Colorado to KCBC, Keg and Lantern, and SingleCut Beersmiths in New York.
In short, we should all be using crowlers.