If you frequent craft breweries or taphouses, you’ve probably become quite familiar with the Crowler™. Standing at 32 ounces, the large single-use fillable can emerged into the market in 2012, created by Ball Canning in partnership with Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado. Oskar Blues is considered the first craft brewery to release its beer in 12 ounce cans, which they pioneered in 2002 using a small tabletop device that filled one can at a time. Since then canned craft beer has truly exploded, pushing larger production breweries to invest in their own canning lines and inspiring an entire sector of mobile canning services which many smaller breweries are able to utilize.
64 ounce and 32 ounce glass growlers haven’t gone away, and most breweries will either offer them for sale pre-filled or will fill customers’ own on demand. However, for certain times, Crowlers™ have become the preferred choice: such as during a pandemic, where filling reusable containers is considered unsafe and unsanitary. In fact, because so many breweries have switched over to using far more Crowlers™ than they ever imagined in order to make up for diminished taproom and retail keg sales, the Crowler™ can backstock has become incredibly depleted, causing a 3-4 week minimum turnaround on orders in the past several months, and some discussion still bubbles about the possibility of running out of cans entirely. This is obviously an unsustainable situation, and I assume demand will remain high for some time after current restrictions are loosened or lifted. While the Crowler™ has become a de facto choice for many consumers and breweries, it is not without drawbacks of its own. Let’s break down some of those here.
The takeaway here is that while Crowlers™ are highly useful products, they are not always the best package for every job and their usefulness depends greatly on proper staff training, correct equipment and customer education. I’m grateful for Crowlers™ in this strange time of pandemic because I can still support my favorite local small breweries, many of whom are running out of glass growlers or are selling mainly Crowlers™. I still prefer other package types personally and will choose them whenever I can. Until I’m able to return to my favorite type of package–a full pint in a sunny spot on the patio of a beer garden–I’m satisfied with whatever package choices my local breweries provide.
Images from absolutebeer.com and oktoberdesign.com.