Growlers Should Take the Place of Six/Four-Packs of Cans/Bottles.

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by md3kcn, Nov 13, 2022.


Should Growlers Eventually Take the Place of Convential Beer Packaging Methods?

  1. Yes

  2. No

  1. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (10,025) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    Again, if the tubes aren't washed, rinsed, and put into a container of sani, immediately after use, one shouldn't consider buying a growler/crowler there in the first place.

    Caveat Emptor. As consumers, it is upon us, and us alone, to make sure that an establishment meets our personal standards.

    Maybe, perhaps, your local breweries are not that conscientious, I don't know. But, most around me are. I shouldn't hold my local standards up as a paragon of how things "should be done". As always, YMMV.
  2. beardown2489

    beardown2489 Zealot (509) Oct 5, 2012 Illinois

    Exactly. In a utopia, we’d never have to package beer. But we’ll never live in that utopia, or any other utopia
    Resistance88 and HoppingMadMonk like this.
  3. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Devotee (439) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    16 oz and we have a winner. Even maybe 12. But the key is: returnable with a deposit, and an industry standard size, like the 12 oz longneck returnables we used to sling in bars in the 70s ( think they lasted into the ‘80s but jess kidden is the guy who would know that.)

    every delivery involved the truck driver taking back an equal number of cases of empties, and giving us a credit for the deposit on the cases he just dropped off. Industry standard meant it didn’t matter whose label was on the bottle. We were too busy during peak hours to sort that s**t anyway.

    I know our owner got very pissed off about a broken returnable…” you guys are killing me”

    The bottles would be scuffed on the “shoulders” from repeated handling by the filler machines…I bet bottles were used hundreds of times, I’m sure they were used dozens.

    this I swear was the best combination of multi-use AND low package 02 imaginable and we threw it away before we ever got conscious of environmental sustainability issues.
  4. BruChef

    BruChef Initiate (196) Nov 8, 2009 New York

    Black Forest and Pumpkin ale when seasonally appropriate.
  5. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,108) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    Of course it is better.

    That said, modern man in the industrialized world has gotten used to levels of luxury that have become necessity to them. Asking anyone to give up anything to insure a safer, better, less toxic, sustainable future is probably a bridge too far. Even something as easy to give up as small amounts of convenience, and less availability of beer from all over the country and world, is certain never to gain acceptance from a public not willing to make even the most minor changes needed to save a world being used up and poisoned by our lifestyles
  6. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Meyvn (1,408) May 3, 2016 Illinois
    Society Trader

    Based on some of the reactions here I wonder how many people here actually eat fresh fruit or vegetables. In the age of drinking local how hard Is it to treat beer like fresh fruit or veggies and buy it within a few days of consumption?
    cavedave likes this.
  7. jageraholic

    jageraholic Disciple (360) Sep 16, 2009 Massachusetts

    I think the first reply nailed it and the thread can be closed lol. I dont often want to drink more than one beer, so unless those growlers are 12 or 16 oz and roughly the same cost as a single bottle, I wouldn't want to switch to this system.
    JMN44, Ozzylizard and PapaGoose03 like this.
  8. barrybeerdog

    barrybeerdog Initiate (186) Aug 17, 2012 South Dakota

    A possible happy medium would be for breweries to go back to the returnable bottle system of old.

    I remember the days of taking an empty case of bottles in for a refund & refill…seemed like a good way to distribute beer!
  9. BigIronH

    BigIronH Poo-Bah (1,929) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
    Society Trader

    I don’t buy vegetables every two days either. Produce typically keeps for a week or better, especially if it’s fresh. A growler isn’t going to keep for a week, at least not in the condition I want to drink it in, no matter what I do. Cheers.
  10. jonphisher

    jonphisher Poo-Bah (1,519) Aug 9, 2015 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    I am 100% with you on the idea behind this but I do not think beer is the place to be focused on for a lot of the reasons stated above.

    Maybe you already do but...

    This is important to me personally so I focus on food cause it is much more feasible...stores that sell bulk, buy some net bags, fill em up, and refill your containers at home. We go to one store that tares containers for you so you can fill up on peanut butter, cleaning supplies, other stuff that net bags don't work for, etc. And the obvious one; local produce that isn't packaged. I have found thin muslin towels work great for lettuce, if you wet the lettuce every few days, it keeps enough moisture it but it is also breathable; experiment and you'll find what works for leafy greens.

    You could also get yourself a kegerator...:slight_smile::beers: growlers be damned

    It is much harder to treat beer that way for me personally. It would require more driving, I would spend much more on beer, and the loss of carbonation should I not finish it. I can buy my produce, prep it or not and it stays good for quite some time; depending on the item that is.
  11. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (3,684) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Same here. We always buy the fruits and vegetables we need for the week and have dried beans on hand.

    I just can't go through a quart of beer in a "session" these days, so buying in bulk for something I'd probably waste 50% isn't quite economic.

    The 32 ounce growler of Spaten Okto I went out of my way to purchase was one of those half-wasted examples. Second day was flat as milk. :confused:
  12. jonphisher

    jonphisher Poo-Bah (1,519) Aug 9, 2015 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    That is my biggest gripe with growlers, I love the idea of them so much but not economic in the least when you consider what you might waste. Plus the price per ounce is always way more, I was always told it was to account four the wasted beer to get no air at the mouth.

    My other problem is the closest brewery I regularly buy beer from is 8 miles down the road, growlers would require more time for me too, and most of us I'm assuming, as opposed to buying their beers a mile down the road at the store.
    Ozzylizard and steveh like this.
  13. Mgh2001

    Mgh2001 Initiate (62) Dec 3, 2021

    What about moving to 500ml and 12oz glass bottles that can be returned, cleaned, repackaged and refilled?
  14. jonphisher

    jonphisher Poo-Bah (1,519) Aug 9, 2015 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    I think we have hashed this one out quite a bit on here every time this topic arises...

    I'll summarize, but anyone feel free to add, it would require a huge investment on any brewery's part to accomplish this. Heck how many breweries even have bottling lines any more, so not only buy a bottling line but then all the equipment to collect/clean/sanitize said bottles.
    PapaGoose03 and Ozzylizard like this.
  15. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,108) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    I think we can look at things as a scale of unsustainability and toxicity. At one end of the scale would be 5 oz. disposable cans of beer made from nickel-vanadium alloy and imported from the most distant places on the planet. At the other end of the scale would be glass growlers filled at your closest outlet with beer made at the closest brewery. It's obvious containers made with the most available, least toxic to produce materials are better. It's obvious reusiing containers is better than recycling, and much better than disposing and making new. It's obvious beer that travels less has less impact on environment.

    It isn't hard to figure out how toxic our lifestyles are. All it requires is study of avalable info, common sense, and a willingness to honestly audit oneself.
    Rug, Jaycase, PapaGoose03 and 3 others like this.
  16. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,820) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    It very much appears that using reusable bottles like they did in the past (e.g., 1990's and before) is not financially sustainable for the beer industry. There have been a number of reasons postulated for why this doesn't 'work' but one reason (a very critical reason) was widespread lack of customer support. Breweries in the past (e.g., 1990's) would state that customers would not adequately support the return of the reusable bottles. They just threw the bottles in the trash instead?

    There was a fairly recent (2018) initiative to implement reusable bottles in Oregon among a group of breweries:

    I have no idea what the state of Oregon reusable bottles is today (2022). I have not found any contemporary information via web surfing and I have posted in past threads hoping that some BAs from Oregon might know whazzup here but I haven't heard a peep.

    I can anecdotally report that I am 'doing my part' in that two days ago I removed the labels from about 40 bottles of empty beer bottles and those bottles will shortly be reused for a batch of homebrewed Dubbel.

    Maybe the 'solution' here is that more folks should homebrew and reuse bottles?

  17. spicoli00

    spicoli00 Defender (642) Jul 6, 2005 Indiana

    At some point in the mid to late 90's, Rogue was selling, via retail outlets, growlers of their buckwheat ale. Can't remember what the cap was. Apparently, it didn't catch on.
    Rug and Whyteboar like this.
  18. moodenba

    moodenba Defender (622) Feb 2, 2015 New York

    It's not impossible to imagine a refillable-bottle environment. But the trend away started long ago. I remember buying return quarts in a southern CA supermarket in the early 70s, and the clerk didn't know enough to charge the 5c deposit. Europe and Canada use refillables. Here it would take some brewery cooperation (standardized bottles and possibly cooperative washing would help) and probably some government intervention using extension of deposit laws. The Oregon initiative for refillables is small. Here's an article from early this year.
    It has the advantage that there is a bottle return program in place, so consumers are used to bringing in bottles. An NPR article said that 90% of deposit containers (both single use and refillable) are returned, having increased due to to the minimum deposit going from 5c to 10c.
    #58 moodenba, Nov 14, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2022
  19. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,820) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    There was no mention of percentage of return for the Oregon Returnable Bottle venture. I do recognize the 90% figure you mentioned concerning an NPR article but it would be helpful to know exactly what is occurring with the Oregon reusable bottle program.

    I am well familiar with how the returnable bottle program operated in my area back in the 90's since I have been reusing returnable bottles from that era for over 25 years for my homebrewed beers:


    I will be once again be using some of those returnable bottles in a few days when I package my batch of homebrewed Dubbel (batch #496). I have reused bottles well over a hundred times and needless to say those bottles were reused many time prior to me acquiring them.

    Maybe Oregon is a viable place for returnable bottles due to customer acceptance of this practice? Straub in western PA uses returnable bottles but those returnable bottled products are not sold at my local beer retailers. It is my understanding that Straub only implements returnable bottles very close to their brewery location.


  20. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,820) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    You can go to the below linked website and watch a video “Historic brewery is making a case for reusable beer bottles” to learn more about the Straub reusable bottle program.

    At the 0:35 mark you can hear Catherine Lenze discuss how back in circa 2016 Straub was considering discontinuing offering beer in reusable bottles since they had issues with getting their reusable bottles back.

    My guess in that presently they can keep the reusable bottle program going by limiting distribution to a very small region (maybe a few counties surrounding St. Marys, PA?).

    Whyteboar likes this.
  21. moodenba

    moodenba Defender (622) Feb 2, 2015 New York

    Most of my homebrew in the late 70s and 80s went into green, squat Molson throwaways. Those were somewhat compact and the green bottles helped me gauge the liquid level at filling. The two brewers that are using refillables say they get back their bottles at a very good rate.
    mactrail likes this.
  22. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,820) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Can you quantify "good rate" (e.g., x% return rate)?

    As I posted above Straub a few years ago were not getting back bottles at an acceptable rate such that they were considering discontinuing using returnable bottles. And even today they do not widely distribute their returnable bottles.

    I would imagine that there is a business case whereby if a brewery does not receive a sufficient amount of returns (maybe 80% return rate?) that they would be losing money due to the costs to procure new reusable bottles to replace those that are not returned. A brewery may still continue the program for other reasons (e.g., to look good from a sustainability perspective?) but eventually those lost bottles will have to be paid for (increased beer prices across the board?).

  23. Crusader

    Crusader Disciple (369) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    In Sweden we still have returnable beer bottles, the outmost majority are 50cl bottles of the model below (the older 33cl standard bottle has pretty much died):
    For these bottles we pay a deposit of 90 öre, or around 86 US cents with today's exchange rate. In every city and town, in every major super market that you go to there is a machine for returning those bottles (the smell of stale beer and fermentation lingers after someone has used them). Yet despite this, according to statistics from the Swedish brewers' association, 25% of all returnable bottles disappear each year, and 86% of these are sold through the monopoly stores, where beer over 3.5% abv are sold. It is noted that "millions of crowns" are thrown away each year (1 crown being equivalent to 100 öre).

    So even though the conditions in Sweden seem to be ideal for a returnable bottle system, with a relatively high deposit and easy access to machines that turn bottles into cash quickly and conveniently, alot of returnable bottles are simply thrown away. Swedish society is simply geared towards cans these days. I myself almost never buy glass bottles except for around Christmas time when most macro breweries bottle their Christmas beers in 50cl bottles.

    I think it all comes down to price, returnable bottles used to be cheaper by the liter or oz compared to cans or throw away bottles, that price difference went away with the popularization of those packages and then the increased costs of transportation and handling meant that the returnable package could no longer compete on price. It became more expensive instead. The people who still buy beer in returnable bottles seem to not care about the loss of the deposit. They merely consider it as part of the cost of the beer. They paid more money to have the beer in that package and the extra cost is simply written off. In countries such as Germany where cans and throw away bottles never managed to become dominant the returnable bottle can still benefit from a price differential. But elsewhere I think the package is doomed under current circumstances.

    #63 Crusader, Nov 14, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2022
  24. SLeffler27

    SLeffler27 Poo-Bah (3,021) Feb 24, 2008 New York
    Society Trader

    Maybe I’m missing something here…

    What about the energy required to transport all these wonderful bottles (twice), and the energy required to strip the old labels? Not to mention the waste factor when they break in the process of being returned for re-use. They also break when full of beer, thus waisting the bottle energy AND the energy required to produce and ship the beer.

    When considering the value of any idea, we should include the embodied energy and life-cycle energy. Bottles weigh dramatically more than cans. Which uses less energy to mine and manufacture? Bottles can be reused, bottles and cans can be recycled. Is recycling less energy intense than re-using?

    I don’t know if the above is a net gain or loss, however, it should be considered.
  25. Chaz

    Chaz Poo-Bah (2,276) Feb 3, 2002 Minnesota
    Society Trader

    Just bring back returnable bottles.

    Reliable distribution and collection chain, just need a whole new in-situ system for wash/fill at each participating brewery.

    GetMeAnIPA and JMN44 like this.
  26. moodenba

    moodenba Defender (622) Feb 2, 2015 New York

    Overall return rate in Oregon for all deposit containers is 90%. Reusables is probably higher. Straub has to convince beer PA wholesalers and retailers to even carry their refillables which compete with throw-away packages. You can only buy and return refillables at a selection of places. In Oregon, retailing refillables isn't a bigger problem than non-refill packages. The returns have to be handled differently, but those issues seem to have been overcome. Return packages can go back a retailer, or any deposit container can go to any of the centralized handling locations. Here in NY, the return to retailer is a hassle, since stores don't have to accept packages they don't sell.
  27. lackenhauser

    lackenhauser Poo-Bah (2,635) Dec 10, 2002 Maryland
    Society Trader

    Are growlers still a thing? Tired of them rolling around in my trunk.
    ChicagoJ and BigIronH like this.
  28. jvgoor3786

    jvgoor3786 Poo-Bah (2,394) May 28, 2015 Arkansas
    Society Trader

    Our city just stopped it's glass recycling program. It's too expensive, breaks in single stream pickup, and it seems China wants less of our junk. I believe this is a trend across the whole country. More reason to just put everything in cans!
    dbrauneis and mactrail like this.
  29. jvgoor3786

    jvgoor3786 Poo-Bah (2,394) May 28, 2015 Arkansas
    Society Trader

    I have to drive downtown to get to a brewery and I'm not interested in drinking exclusively from them anyway. The Arkansas beer scene is a wee bit shallow compared to Grand Rapids where I'm from. Also, the two beer stores near my house both took down their growler stations - didn't make money and were labor intensive to clean lines, deal with kegs, etc.
    Whyteboar and jonphisher like this.
  30. elNopalero

    elNopalero Poo-Bah (4,935) Oct 14, 2009 California
    Society Trader

    I had a half dozen bottles from Gigantic that I ended up tossing in the recycle bin, since there’s no place that reuses them near me. Which is unfortunate, because they felt like solid bottles. For all of CA’s environment awareness this seems like a logical next step.
  31. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Devotee (439) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    Question being, what are the net-net numbers on aluminum can recycling? My understanding is that much less re-usable aluminum is generated than most people think, because of impurities from the labeling. Shrink wrap labels in the craft realm, and ink or paint or dye or whatever from the mega-brewers. And I’ve been told aluminum mining is pretty filthy environmentally (and socially, in terms of exploitation of human labor)
  32. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Poo-Bah (2,193) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    Aluminum mining, smelting, and refinement is significantly more energy intensive than new glass production. The weight is where aluminum does have a big advantage in shipping, but there are some caveats to consider. Regardless of reused, recycled, or thrown away, all packaging gets transported at least twice (unless you're running a landfill in your back yard or burning your trash on site or something). Also, those trucks that deliver the full package are making two trips no matter what, distribution trucks don't live at the grocery store. So I suspect that the actual increase in fuel used in transporting empty reusable glass bottles is massively overblown since all the comparisons I've seen treat single use as if they are never transported again once the consumer picks them up and none of them mention the inevitable cost of the (empty?) distribution trucks leaving the grocery stores.

    Ultimately, some sort of decentralized system of collection and cleaning of standardized reusable bottles is probably the most environmentally low impact model for beverage distribution. But as others have pointed out, consumer attitudes and corporate instincts, and general cultural bias (what sort of commie bastards would make all beer and soda use the same bottles?! Muh free speech!!!!) make this model extremely unlikely to spontaneously arise.

    It would be a very cool project for the brewers association to spearhead, they could probably find a beneficial partnership with beer distributors.
    cavedave, PapaGoose03 and SLeffler27 like this.
  33. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,108) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    Good points.

    Add to these points that most recycled glass in many areas of the country is used for clean fill on projects locally, so travels significantly less than recycled aluminum cans. New technology even can reduce it back into "sand" (a youtube search for "glass into sand" brings up great info) Folks can check with their local authorities what is their recycling plan for glass. Add to this that the reason most colors of glass are not usually recycled into new glass is because the raw material for new glass is abundant and inexpensive (unlike bauxite/aluminum)..
  34. Genuine

    Genuine Devotee (478) May 7, 2009 Connecticut

    This post reminds me of the days when Berkshire Brewing Company sold theirs in growlers and bombers. Growlers are great if you intend on finish it within a day or two. I do like the single serve freshness of cans/bottles. With the latest IPA craze, I think filling growlers sufficiently to keep out oxygen, would be the culprit unless they come out with a way to fill it like a keg and dispense a bit differently. Which at that point, I'd be open to it.
  35. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,820) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    There are ways to do this but the filling machines come at a price. A number of breweries (brewpubs) near me purchased growler filling machines from Alfred Gruber (one beertender a while back told me they cost $20K but I am uncertain of this information). During the growler fill a double evacuation of the growler using CO2 is performed and then the growler is bottom filled using counter-pressure. Below you can watch of video of the filling operation.

    I would be interested in knowing the measured TPO (Total Packaged Oxygen) values of a growler filled using this machine and how it compares to the brewery's canning (or bottling) line.


  36. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Devotee (439) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    Well, recycling a single-use glass container is a different cost-benefit analysis from what I’m touting, which is multiple-use, returnable/re-usable glass bottles. Apologies if I misunderstood and you were actually talking about multi-use returnables…
    jvgoor3786 likes this.
  37. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,820) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Patrik, I am in agreement with you here.

    But maybe the state of Oregon could be an exception here? Presently there are only two breweries that advocate for the Oregon reusable bottle program:

    "Unfortunately, it is mostly Gigantic and Double Mountain Brewery on the beer side that is championing this packaging. We’ve decided to stick to our guns and try to get the people that care about this stuff to buy beer in these returnable bottles."

    Maybe those two breweries can:


    Crusader likes this.
  38. jvgoor3786

    jvgoor3786 Poo-Bah (2,394) May 28, 2015 Arkansas
    Society Trader

    I'm not sure how I got to that topic, but I was talking about the difficulty of single-use glass bottle recycling. I think, from an environmental perspective, it lends credibility to your argument. Although, as a Michigan native, I hate the .10 deposit on returnables.
  39. moodenba

    moodenba Defender (622) Feb 2, 2015 New York

    In states with deposit laws, the containers go into clean recycle streams. That makes those programs more sustainable than mixed waste, or even user separated waste. Here in NY we have a deposit law for some containers. But in my area a large variety of non-deposit containers are covered by a separate local recycling program. I see a large fraction of the material in those recycle bins is junk that belongs in the trash, drastically reducing the value of those materials, and making the program less economically viable.
    PapaGoose03 and cavedave like this.
  40. Jesseix

    Jesseix Initiate (38) Mar 18, 2022 California

    Wow, are there a lot of places around you that bought these??