PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Ed McAleer likes to drink his brown ale and IPA straight from a beer tap. But he doesn't need to be in a pub to do so.
When he has a hankering for a draft beer at home, McAleer pours himself a cold one from a growler, a refillable 64-ounce glass jug that he buys from Federal Jack's, a brewpub and restaurant in his hometown of Kennebunkport. If he's having friends over, he'll sometimes pick up two or three growlers filled with different types of beer so his guests can sample a variety.
Around the country, hundreds of brewpubs, breweries and even grocery stores are cashing in on the growing popularity of growlers, a term that dates back more than a century. when people would carry fresh beer in buckets.
"I like the ability to get a draft taste instead of a bottled beer. To me it's a fresher taste," said McAleer, 61, who is retired. "I also can't get some of the beers in bottles. And the price is good."
Most everybody knows beer comes in bottles, cans or kegs. Mention the word "growler" and you might get a blank stare.
But the moonshine jug-looking containers are catching on, said Julia Herz of the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo. Generally speaking, people buy growlers at brewpubs, where they're filled with beer and capped. After they're brought home, the beer will stay good for two to five days once opened.
Consumers like growlers because they're green — they're reusable and don't contribute to the waste stream — they're good for sharing with friends and the beer is less expensive than buying pints at a pub, Herz said. They're also nostalgic. The pails that people used to haul beer from a pub to home or to work in times long past became known as growlers because of the growling sound they emitted as the beer sloshed about or perhaps from the growling of a worker's hungry stomach just before he enjoyed a beer with his lunch.
But it's the taste that keeps people coming back, Herz said on a recent day when she had a growler filled with 400-Pound Monkey, an English-style IPA made by Left Hand Brewing Co. in Longmont, Colo., in her refrigerator at home.
"''What's nice about the growler is you pour it into the glass, and that's the proper way to enjoy all that a beer has to offer for flavor and aroma," Herz said.
Growler sales in Maine have taken off since a new law went into effect two years ago allowing pubs that make their own beer to sell growlers from behind the bar. Previously, brewpubs had to have a separate brewery store with a separate entrance to sell them.
Federal Jack's has sold growlers for a number of years, because it has a separate store. But since the law went into effect, the owner — who also owns Shipyard Brewing Co. in Portland — has started selling them at his four other brewpubs as well, in Eliot, South Portland, Bangor and Topsham, where sales have been brisk.