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I don’t know about you, but it hurts me—really hurts!—when I have a growler filled and the bar attendant lets several pints of perfectly good beer go down the drain in the process. Yes, I appreciate not being handed 64 ounces of foam, but is all that waste really necessary?
Perhaps a little extra overflow is acceptable when you move as much volume as a pro brewery. But when you’ve invested hours of your own labor and love into crafting a keg of homebrew, to paraphrase Monty Python, every drop is sacred. So if you keg and need to fill a growler, here are nine tips to avoid growler grief.
1. Start with a chilled growler jug.
Note that I said chilled, not frosty. A few minutes in the fridge will do just fine, but don’t even think about putting the growler in the freezer. Freezing the growler just promotes more foaming thanks to ice crystal development.
2. Connect a foot of tubing to your faucet.
A half-inch siphon tubing will do the trick: Just make sure that it fits snugly over the faucet. If you frequently fill growlers, you might want to purchase a special fitting that simply plugs right into the faucet and connects to a length of tubing. But plain old tubing will do just fine.
3. Drop the serving pressure.
Serving pressure is usually in the 10–15 psi range, but you want to fill the growler nice and slow. So drop the regulator down to 2–4 psi before you pour. That should be just enough to get beer through the faucet.
4. Pour yourself a beer.
This has nothing to do with relaxing and not worrying, although these are welcome side effects of having a homebrew. Pouring a pint or so through the tubing at low pressure chills the beverage lines and purges foam so that you can fill the growler with liquid. Don’t dump the foam! You made it, after all. Enjoy it.
5. Fill ‘er up.
After you’ve poured yourself a beer, set it aside and thread the free end of the tube into your growler jug. When it hits bottom, open the faucet up all the way and let ‘er rip. But don’t walk away! Stand and monitor the pour while you enjoy your beer from step 4.
6. Top up gently.
As the beer approaches the neck of the growler, it will start to foam somewhat and speed up. Kill the flow and remove the growler. Take the tubing off your faucet and then gently top up the growler with fresh beer. You want some foam to come out to displace oxygen, but it needn’t be Old Faithful. If you really can’t bear to see beer wasted, place a small dish under the growler in this last step to catch overflow, and drink up when you’re done.
7. Cap it.
Screw on the growler cap while some foam is still gently oozing over the side of the growler. You’ll postpone oxidation and improve carbon dioxide retention.
8. Enjoy within a day.
With improved pouring technique and a growler that features a swing-top “Grolsch” closure, you might be able to preserve your porta-beer for longer than a day. But until you’ve tried it a few times, assume that the growler is going to be flat within 24 hours. So just open it and enjoy it.
9. No, really, enjoy within a day.
Even technique and fancy enclosures cannot save you here. An opened growler is a ticking time bomb. Drink it all before it goes completely flat.