The Uncorked Dork: Three Cheers for Beer (In Growlers)

By | June 01, 2015
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GOOD food calls for good wine.
But good doesn’t have to be expensive or pretentious.
That’s the philosophy of edible Tampa Bay’s very own wine
the Uncorked Dork, who serves up irreverent
wine know-how for folks who like wine,
but don’t want to be so serious about it.

Wine in a jug? No thank you. Seriously, just don’t go there. But beer in a jug? Yes, please!

In honor of the big win that allowed craft brewers in Florida to finally sell industry-standard 64-ounce jugs at their breweries, I thought I’d deviate from my typical fruit of the vine and talk beer.

That’s because with all this talk about these jugs o’ beer – commonly called growlers – I couldn’t help but think: Who named these things? I mean, I like beer. Beer makes me happy.

Getting 64 ounces straight from the tap doesn’t leave anything to growl about, right?

Wine has pretty cool names for its containers – the names of ancient kings and wise men, for example – and my personal favorite, bocksbeutel (you should look that one up).

But beer? We name a container after a noise, a sound typically used to describe a pissed off animal? Is it any wonder that some wine drinkers turn their noses up? I was curious, and since this law change has been covered everywhere from to Forbes, I figured I’d dip into the lighter side and do a little research on the name.

Turns out that – as with most items of, let’s say, lighter historical weight – there are multiple theories as to where the term came from.

beer in jugs


In a time before bottled beer was available, one had to go to a favorite bar to enjoy this liquid gift from God. But there was a need to fill and that need was the ability to get drunk outside of a bar. Bar owners obliged, filling vessels – more often than not, a galvanized or enameled pail with a lid that could contain right at two quarts – with beer from the tap.

Parents sent their children down to the local pub after dinner to grab these buckets (I wonder how much of that beer made it home?), or the bar owners used their own children or those they employed to “rush the growler” to thirsty home-based (or work-site-based!) patrons … basically a draft beer delivery service using child labor.

The movement of the buckets (which were sometimes carried in multiples on notched poles to their delivery location) during delivery agitated the liquid, causing the CO2 to escape, push up the lids and create a growling sound. Thus the growler was born.

Considering this history, I can only imagine what terms my nephews would come up with if they were so gainfully employed. I’m thinking we’re lucky we only ended up with growler.

Before the days of bottled beer, “rushing the growler”
was basically a draft beer delivery service
using child labor.


Another school of thought is that that the “growling” was coming from unhappy patrons who complained that the bartender needed to be a little more patient when filling their to-go container. Their issue? The barkeep needed to allow the head to settle, rather than filling a two quart pail with a pint of beer and a lot of foam. Much kvetching ensued, as arguments erupted across the bar … the buyer “growling” that he was paying for foam.

Personally I feel if this were true we would be calling them “disgruntles” … complaints and general unhappiness seem more likely than actual growling. But that’s just me.

Now this is a fun little history lesson, but obviously the bigger issue is that in a state where tourism is a huge part of our economy, craft brewers don’t have to explain over and over why to every new customer that they can sell beer in 32-ounce containers, or 128- ounce containers, but not the one right in between.

I’m sure they can tell you even more about the law, so pay them a visit, try a few beers and ask about what it means for their business. Maybe quiz them on this history too … and don’t forget to grab a “disgruntle” to go.

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