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Buying Growlers For Your Brewery? Here's everything you need to know

Growlers are an increasingly popular choice for packaging beer. This complete guide provides all the information you need to get the right growler at the best price. It is intended for breweries, brewpubs, and other businesses who are looking to purchase growlers in bulk (more than 100).

What is a growler?

A growler is a special container that is traditionally used to transport draft beer or cold-brew coffee. The term 'growler' is said to have originated as a reference to the sound that emanated from the containers as carbon dioxide escaped from the beer that was held inside.

With the blossoming of craft and micro-breweries over the past few years, growlers are becoming an increasingly popular method for customers to transport beer from their local brewery. Many breweries have now begun offering growler refill programs, whereby patrons can bring their washed growlers back to the brewery for refills at reduced rates.

Growler: glass 64 oz amber

A typical beer growler

What materials can a growler be made of?

Although glass growlers are most common, stainless steel growlers are becoming more popular due to their portability, durability, and ability to keep beer fresh longer. Ceramic growlers are also available, though they are considerably more expensive and more difficult to find.

Growler: stainless steel

Stainless steel growler

Growler: ceramic

Ceramic growler

What are the most common sizes?

While 64 oz is the most popular growler size, they are usually available in the following sizes:

  • 32 oz (1/4 gallon)
  • 64 oz (1/2 gallon)
  • 128 oz (1 gallon)
  • 1 Liter (33.8 oz) - often have flip-top caps called "Grolsch-style", and do not have handles
  • 2 Liters (67.6 oz) - usually only available with flip-tops, and can have metal or glass handles

What colors are available?

The two most popular colors for growlers are amber (a brownish hue) or clear (often referred to as "flint"). Clear growlers are often 25% - 35% cheaper per unit than amber growlers. Growlers can also be found in other colors (such as green or cobalt blue), although these may be more difficult to find and may need to be custom manufactured.

One benefit of the dark amber glass compared with clear glass is that it can offer some protection from ultraviolet (UV) light that can spoil beer and lead to a "skunky" odor and taste.

Growler: amber

Amber glass growler

Growler: clear

Clear glass growler

What type of closures can be used?

Growlers usually come in one of two closure varieties: screw-cap and flip-top (also called swing-top). While screw-cap growlers are much more widely available than flip-top growlers and hence less expensive, many people feel that flip-tops are more aesthetically pleasing and have a more "classic" look. Flip-top growlers are generally more difficult to print on than their screwcap counterparts.

The caps themselves can either be in plastic or metal, and the most common screw threading available is 38/400.

Both screwcaps and flip-tops should be cleaned between growler refills. From a practical standpoint, there is not much difference between screwcaps and flip-tops. Some breweries tend to prefer the look of a flip-top, but which closure you choose should not make a material difference to how fresh your beer stays in the growler.

Growler: flip-top closure

Flip-top growler

Growler: screw-cap seal

Screw-cap growler

Are there different shapes for growlers?

For a 64 oz. growler, the typical height tends to be between 11in. - 12 in., with a 5 in. - 6 in. width at the base, although this can vary.

Glass handles are the most common, although metal handles (with more ornate designs) can also be found. Some growlers do not have handles -- this is especially common with growlers smaller than 64 oz. that have Grolsch-style flip-tops.

The 2L growler offerings from most suppliers tends to look very different than the "standard" growler shape. A typical 2L growler has a metal or hanging glass handle, flip-top, and looks like this:

Growler: 32oz amber

32/64/128 oz growler

Growler: 1 liter amber

1 liter growler

Growler: 2 liter amber

2 liter growler

What are the typical quantities and price breaks?

For wholesale growlers, the minimum quantity is generally either 1/2 gross or 1 gross (1 gross = 144 growlers). For a 64 oz. growler, generally a case is considered to be 6 growlers, and a pallet contains 504 growlers. For a 32 oz. growler, a case is generally considered to be 12 growlers, and pallets may contain in the range of 800 - 1200 growlers. This will vary based on the supplier, as well as the exact shape of the growler to be shipped.

When negotiating with a supplier for growlers, it is often more economical to condense your growler order into as few shipments as possible, to save on freight costs, which can be significant. For example, rather than have five separate shipments of 100 growlers each, it may make more sense to have one shipment containing one pallet of growlers.

Growler Price Ranges
Size Price per growler
32 oz $1.70 to $2.50
64 oz $2.50 to $6.00
1 gal $4.00 to $8.90
1 L $1.80 to $2.40
2 L $10 to $18
Growler Volume Discounts
Order size Discount
1 growler 0%
1 gross (~144 growlers) 40% to 60%
1 pallet (~504 growlers) 60% to 70%
More than 1 pallet Up to 85%

What if I want custom imprints or etching?

The most common method of decorating growlers is to have your logo or other artwork imprinted onto the glass. This process is also known as screen printing. Etching, on the other hand, involves engraving a design into the glass itself, resulting in a "raised" or "pop-out" feel. In terms of costs, etching is a much more expensive option -- the cost to deep etch a single growler can range from $2 to $4. Because of this, most customers opt for imprinting growlers.

If you need artwork to be imprinted onto your growlers, you should either specify how many colors will be in the artwork (i.e. 1 color, 2 colors, etc.), or provide the supplier with an image of the artwork. Many growler suppliers will include a one-color imprint with the price of the growler for larger orders, and will charge an additional fee per growler (usually less than $0.90) to add a second color to the artwork. You may also find that some suppliers charge a setup fee for doing the custom imprint, which is separate from and additional to the per-growler imprint fee.

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