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What’s a Crowler? Many Locations in Houston Get New Gear

What’s a Crowler?

 

Not everybody speaks craft beer. Yet. *Mr. Burns anticipatory finger steepling commences.* Many places in Houston are trying to add convenience to their offerings, and everybody wins.

 

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(Hop Stop Humble’s crowler machine)

What’s a Crowler? Our homies Rick and Dawn over at The Hop Stop Humble recently purchased a crowler machine, so they can probably tell you a little ‘sum-sum.

Being the community driven, beer loving folks that they are, Rick and Dawn decided to have a competition for who would create the crowler label art. They even decided to let the winner of the art competition name their machine complete with a plaque. (Tony won second, third, and fourth place. He has a wall of participation trophies that line his garage.)

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(Hop Stop Humble’s top entry to the crowler label design competition)

There was a post on Facebook when Rick and Dawn first announced the competition, and one of the comments said, what’s a crowler. More precisely, “WTF is a Crowler?”

It’s always humbling to be reminded that not everybody who loves craft beer is a complete nerd about it like us, so we have to step out of our own obsessive shoes for a minute and share for the greater good.

So, What is a Crowler?

In its most simplest form, a Crowler is a big ass can of beer.

If that’s all you came for, then you’re good to go to your next stop as you kill time at work thinking about beer related things instead of well, work.

But in typical Beer Chronicle fashion, just answering the question “what’s a crowler” isn’t enough. If the meeting’s not over, or you haven’t procrastinated on that big deadline long enough to really motivate yourself, keep on reading!

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(Oskar Blues crowler canning machine display, photo courtesy of Tap Trail)

What’s a Crowler: The History

Rewind back to 2014. Scares of Ebola outbreaks were on every media format every day, meanwhile (ironically) everybody around the world was singing Pharrell’s annoyingly catchy “I’m happyyyy.” Houston only had a little over 20 breweries, and everybody was getting their crystal clear IPAs to go in a brown glass growler.

But times change, and so does beer.

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(The trusty ‘ol, amber, glass growler complete with dinky metal lids)

You can’t take a big ass glass jug with you on a hike or to the beach, and they don’t keep for longer than a few days. (There have been more than one time we asked for a growler fill and a brewer cringed at the idea of us writing a review on beer from a grower. After urging them that we’d drink it in the next 24 hours, most obliged. Taylor at No Label was easily the most reluctant with Mango Milkshake, and now they’ll be doing that daily with their brewpub license!)

The fact that so many people are concerned about the quality of their beer a few days later begs the question, why isn’t there a better, fresher, more convenient way?

Enter craft beer triple OG, Longmont Colorado’s very own Oskar Blues. They wanted an on-demand way to send taproom customers home with fresh beer to go, but the big, bulky glass wasn’t gonna cut it. They partnered with canning giants Ball and started tinkering.

The idea was born after considering that people have grown/stored produce with jars and at-home canners, why not bring that to beer? And bring it to beer they did. Through R&D, trial, and error, they developed a machine that’d rim big cans one at a time, and they were able to start a revolution across the US.

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(Another of Tony’s entries into the crowler label design competition)

What’s a Crowler? More Specifically

Crowlers are usually 32 ounces, and the cans are often brites, (AKA plain old, shiny, aluminum cans). Since their inception in 2014, some breweries have taken to crowler-ing 16 ounce cans as well.

Lots of places have grabbed the old “hello my name is” stickers and written the beer info on them, but as craft beer continues to grow, branding is just as important as the beer itself (sometimes moreso), so many owners have taken to designing artwork for their Crowler labels.

Tampa Florida’s Cigar City Brewing has even gone as far as printing cans up to save their employees the time of hand-labeling each one. Patrons are going to be putting pics of their beer on FB, IG, and Untappd. May as well get your business some exposure on the cans too, right!? The demand has to be pretty big to justify an expense like Cigar City’s, but getting some good, branded stickers are a good look for any brewery or craft beer joint.

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(Another of Tony’s entries into the crowler label design competition)

Cool. So I know What a Crowler is, but Why?

Crowlers solve a freshness problem because they’re just a bigger version of a can of beer. Light can’t get in, and neither can air. With a Growler, there may be a bit of air, and light exposure’s possible too. There’s also a cleanliness concern because you probably didn’t buy a bottle brush to clean out your growler properly after each use, and that sticky crap at the bottom isn’t helping the cause for your next fill.

So crowlers start fresher and stay fresher for much longer than a growler would, and they solve another problem of a convenience because you can take a 16 or even 32 ounce can in many more places than you can a 32 or 64 ounce glass bottle.

Let’s be honest, though. At a couple G’s per machine, not everybody’s hopping on the crowler craze just yet. Growlers, albeit ineffective in comparison, aren’t going anywhere. If you’re still rocking a dinky metal cap on your Growler like the ones pictured above, upgrade to some poly seal caps for just a few dollars to buy an extra day or two.

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(Last one, promise. Another of Tony’s entries into the crowler label design competition)

Take My Money! Where Can I Find Crowlers?

Breweries and craft beer bars around Houston have adopted Crowler machines a lot in the last year or two, and overwhelmingly in 2017. Many of which don’t have the ability or desire to put cans and bottles on store shelves, but they still want to send patrons home with fresh beer that will last longer than two or three days in their fridge.

Here are a few of our favorites that have hopped on the crowler bandwagon lately: Drink of Ages Pub, Hop Stop Humble, Baa Baa Brewhouse, Craft Beer Cellar. Eureka Heights, Sigma, B52, Copperhead, Whole Foods Market Brewing, and Brash have one too, as well as a few other spots we’re probably neglecting.

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(B52 Crowler of Raaaaaaaandy With 8 A’s alongside a super classy 🖕Harvey Teku, still for sale)

Feel free to send us hate mail about somebody that we left out, so we can clap back with a snarky reply and then quietly add it here.

Beers to you, Houston! 🍻

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