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Growlers in Chicago

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Jeff Bean

hophead, fisherman, and Nebraska-native

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Growlers, 64oz glass jugs of draft beer, have been getting a lot of buzz this past week. The New York Times ran an article on Tuesday calling them "the beer accessory of the moment."  I'm not sure that is the most accurate way to describe them, as they've been popular for quite a while.  Still, I thought it appropriate to provide a guide to carryout draft beer in Chicago.  The slideshow is a list of places that fill growlers, as well as the prices for new growlers (think of it as a deposit on the glassware) and beer refills.
Growlers have a range of strong points.  They're recyclable and refillable, so they're more environmentally friendly than bottles or cans.  Because they're filled directly from a keg or cask, the beer is also fresher than packaged beer.  They're often the only way to enjoy beers from smaller breweries (that don't bottle) or small batch beers (from those that do) at home.  They're a cost-effective way to bring beer to a social gathering like a Super Bowl party or barbecue.  Finally, growlers allow beer drinkers to take-out beers as they are released, instead of waiting for the liquor store to get a shipment of newly released bottles.

Still, I don't get growlers very often.  This is primarily for reasons of convenience.  Apparently, Illinois Law prohibits the repackaging of alcoholic beverages, therefore only producers are allowed to sell growlers. This leaves a very limited number of places, i.e. breweries and brewpubs, that offer them.  There is nowhere within 20 minutes of my apartment that sells fresh growlers.  Some liquor stores around Chicago carry Rogue Dead Guy Ale in a growler, but it is packaged in Oregon and overpriced. A 64oz jug of Dead Guy usually goes for $13-14, while a six-pack (72 oz) of the same beer normally runs $11-12.  They still seem to sell, probably just because -- let's face it -- growlers are cool.

Another downside of growlers is their time-sensitive nature.  A properly filled growler should last for three days or more.  However, if the growler is not properly poured and sealed, then the beer can go stale in just a day or so.  If I want a beer at a given moment, then I usually just grab one at a bar.  Otherwise, I'll opt for bottles.  They're great for events, but otherwise a highly perishable 64oz jug of beer can be a big commitment.

If you know of any other places we can pick up growlers, or can offer further insight into Illinois or Chicago liquor laws, please share with us via e-mail or in the comments.  Thanks!

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7 Comments

bert said:

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I got my growlers from harrisons, 159th & lagrange. Jokeam Macume, (im butchering his name) is the brewmaster there.

bert said:

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refills are about 8 bucks,,tuesday has a special, think its 7 bucks...i get a red ale, love it.

bert said:

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ive noticed that the lighter beers go flat faster then darker. (in a growler)

Jeff Bean said:

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Thanks, we'll definitely check it out!

Bernie said:

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Where do you live? On the north and west sides -- as the slideshow image above suggests -- we have Half Acre, Revolution, Goose Island, Piece .... I'm sure Doug and Tracy over at Metropolitan would fill one up for you if you knock and ask really nice. In the south and southwest suburbs, we've got Flossmoor Station and Two Brothers ...

Dondi said:

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The new Revolution Brew pub on Milwaukee offers Growlers. A tad pricey but the beer is very good.

Jeff Bean said:

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Yes it is. I've been meaning to update the slideshow.

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