Let me start this post by stating up front that growlers aren’t necessarily the cheapest way to buy your beer. You’ll generally get more beer for your buck by purchasing a case of cans or bottles. However, many microbreweries do not bottle or can their beers, so if you want to take some home with you, a growler may be your only choice. I’ve done this many times, in fact, I have a collection of about 30 growlers from various breweries and tap rooms.
A standard growler is 64oz, which is the equivalent of 5.33 12oz beers. My basic yardstick for a best beer bargain is $1 or less per 12 oz beer, which would equate to around $5.33 for a growler fill (before tax). If you know of a place that does growler fills this cheap, please leave me a comment stating where (I would be very surprised). Chances are that you’ll be paying at least $10 per fill. That’s on top of the initial cost of the growler itself which should be $5 to $10 for a glass growler. There are also stainless steel and ceramic growlers, but these tend to be a lot more expensive.
Even though growler fills tend to be slightly more expensive than bottles and cans, I still buy them, mainly because I’m a fan of great tasting beers from smaller local breweries that don’t yet have the bottle or can options. That said, I’m not going to spend $70 on a growler fill. And yes, a nearby taproom is offering growler fills of a local double IPA for $70 (an outlandish $13.20 per 12oz!).
Here are the two best growler bargains in my area (Seattle, Washington):
Georgetown Brewing Company: Growler of Manny’s Pale Ale for $8 (including tax)
Georgetown Brewing Company is a very popular Seattle brewery and their flagship beer is Manny’s Pale Ale (88/100 on BeerAdvocate). The price after tax is $8. Now, Georgetown doesn’t sell beer to drink on premises, but they will let you taste for free. I went there this week and tried eight fantastic beers, including their Bodhizafa IPA, which just won the gold medal in the American-Style India Pale Ale category at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). The tasters were at least 2oz pours, so eight of them equates to a free pint!
Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Company: Growler of Any Beer for $7 (including tax)
When I purchased my growler at Georgetown Brewing Company, I asked if it was the best growler fill bargain in town. I was informed that Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Company had them even cheaper, at just $7 (including tax). I couldn’t quite believe it, so I made my way to Bad Jimmy’s in Ballard to see for myself. Sure enough, they were only $7, FOR ANY OF THEIR BEERS!!! I got 5oz tasters of their IPA, Sea Hop (fresh hop), CDA (Cascadian Dark Ale aka black IPA) Dark Cocoa Vanilla Porter, and Barley Wine. The tasters were $2 each, which is very reasonable. I took home a $7 growler of IPA goodness (yeah, I get it, I drink a lot of IPA). I was super glad that my server at Georgetown gave me the tip about Bad Jimmy’s, and I shared this with my server at Bad Jimmy’s. This is kinda how the craft beer scene works in the Pacific Northwest. It’s very much a tight-knit community where brewers share information, drink each other’s beers, and even collaborate to make beers together.
bevRAGE: Get a Dollar Cash Back on Growlers
Be sure keep your receipt and use the bevRAGE offer of $1 off any draft beer on the above growlers (to bring them down to $7 and $6 respectively – best beer bargains!). A growler fill may seem like a stretch of the term “draft beer”, but really it’s not, because a “draft beer” is simply beer served from a keg, rather than a bottle or can. I have successfully submitted a growler fill receipt to bevRAGE and have been paid the $1, so it works!