“Getting a fill” no longer refers solely to the gas tank of your car. It’s a ritual for many of us who own at least 5-10 growlers, all with different breweries’ logos emblazoned on the side of brown-tinted glass. But is filling your growler at your favorite brewery a better value than buying the same brew in bottles at the store? First let’s look at the cost of a single growler. Do you really need a $69 drink tank? You might think so if you’re a collector or want to show off your fancy-schmancy personal keg to friends. You can get a growler at nearly every place that caters to “bucket boys.” When you need an affordable, re-usable container in which to obtain and ultimately consume tapped beer from, a $6 value jug will work just fine.
When I take my growler to my favorite taproom, I get giddy. I love to bring home a big jug of ale to share in a frosty mug with my better half. But if that same brew suddenly becomes available at the grocery store, should I buy it there to save money? The answer is: it depends. If you can’t get your favorite beer from the store (like Coalition’s Mr. Pig’s Pal Ale or Burnside Brewing Company’s Too Sticky to Roll IRA, for example), then a growler is surely the best way for you to take it home. To be honest, I love that my local grocery store has been expanding their beer selection to include so many wonderful Oregon microbrews, even ones I didn’t realize actually bottled their beer. Let’s hear it for expanded distribution! Ahh, but I digress.
So, if I pay $12 for a growler fill of my favorite brew, then pick up two 22 oz. beers of the same beer at the grocery store for $5 each, which one is the better value? Is it more economical to buy my beer at the store or get a growler fill at a brewery or taproom?
Let’s break it down. To figure out if you’re getting a good money value for your beer, you’ll first want to quantify how much you’re paying for beer by the ounce. An average growler holds 64 oz., a six pack of bottled beer holds 72 oz., and 12-pack of bottled beer has 144 oz.
$12 for 64 oz – 12/64= $.19 per ounce
$5 for 22 oz – 5/22= $.23 per ounce
In this case, the growler fill was certainly the better bet. But how does that same growler fill compare to a $15 half-rack at the store? For starters, there are more ounces in a 12-pack of bottled beer than in a growler – twice as many, in fact. Maybe I’m expecting six beer-thirsty friends to come over, and I don’t know if I go for two growlers of brew or simply grab a 12-pack for $15?
Two growlers = 124oz. $12 per growler = $24.00 for two.
12 bottles of 12 oz. each 12×12= 144 oz.
$15 / 144 oz = $.10 per ounce
$24 /124 oz = $.19 per ounce
Ah-HA! Here’s a good example of when the bottled 12-pack trumps the growler fill.
In the end, the value of a growler fill really depends on what kind of worth you place on the beer you put in your growler. A Boneyard RPM can only be had at a growler store taproom, or their brewery, so a growler full of the stuff simply tingles the tastebuds, no matter what the price of the growler fill. But if you’re watching your cash flow and a Bridgeport IPA is on your mind, save the $12 fill at their brew house and go for the $14 12-pack, where you can get it.
Here are some tips on buying growler fills at your local taparie or brewhouse:
• The average cost for a fill growler fills for $9 (or 14? an ounce) or less are typically good bets.
• Never pay more than $15 for a growler fill unless it is a special release or uncommon ale type. Certainly don’t buy it unless you have a taste first!
• A $16 growler fill amounts to 25? an ounce, the same cost per ounce as one $4 pint, two $6 – 22oz bottles or an $18 six pack from the store.
• Look for the special deals and coupon discounts available for growler fills. For example, you can buy-one-fill-and-get-one-free at the Portland Brewing Company on Fridays, and often the Growlerie in Beaverton publishes $5 off fills in coupon circulars. These great deals can amount to $.09 an ounce!