For many outdoor enthusiast, myself included, enjoying a cold beer at the end of a long day in the backcountry is the perfect way to reflect on another great adventure. With craft breweries popping all over the United States, many outdoor companies are getting into the growler game—we figured it was time to put them to the test. In close collaboration with the beer geniuses at Chain Reaction Brewing Company in Denver, we took seven growlers that are currently on the market and compared them in four different categories—appearance, performance, ease of transport, and most importantly, the taste test.
Meet the Growlers
(photos are interactive)
There is no doubt that Drink Tanks has built an incredibly sturdy growler here. The double bail locking lid provides an airtight seal, and the double wall vacuum insulated stainless steel keeps things fresh and cold. Check out Drink Tanks website for some really cool accessories like the Keg Cap, which allows you to recharge your beer with CO2 and dispense beer without opening the growler.
Weight: 2 lbs. 4 oz.
Pros: Bomber construction, double wall insulation, additional accessories
The BOSS is the only growler in the lineup that is triple insulated, and it outperformed all other growlers in the temperature test. It also has a dual purpose lid, which can be opened wide for filling or smaller for pouring. The BOSS includes an infuser for tea or sangria.
Weight: 1 lb. 13.5 oz.
Pros: triple insulation, great for camping trips, infuser included
Cons: no pour handle
Hydro Flask has a great reputation in the outdoor industry, and for good reason. This double wall vacuum insulated growler is simple, performs very well and has a lifetime warranty. One of its best features is the lid, which has a very substantial gasket so you can get a perfect airtight seal. Hydro Flask has definitely built this growler to withstand the test of time.
Weight: 1 lb. 15.2 oz
Pros: Secure lid, lifetime warranty, double wall insulation
Cons: no pour handle
There is no question that the handle is one of the best features of this growler. While it seems simple, it creates a great option for carry that is not obstructive if you’re trying to slide this growler into tight spaces. When the lid is open is folds out into a full size pour handle, and the hinge prevents the lid from closing when you’re pouring.
Weight: 1 lb. 14.2 oz
Pros: Handle, double wall insulation, most affordable
Miir has created a unique lid closure system that is incredibly secure, and keeps the cap attached but out of the way while pouring. The powder coat finish is fun, durable, and provides a nice texture. Miir makes a growler cage accessory that fits on the top tube of your bike, making this a great choice for cyclists. For every growler purchased, clean water is given to one person in need.
Weight: 1 lb. 14.7 oz.
Pros: double wall insulation, bomber construction, accessories, purchase supports humanitarian efforts
Cons: no pour handle
This is a growler that made me say, “wow” when it arrived in the mail. The Sprocket is the only growler in this lineup that is entirely handmade in America. They’re slip cast by hand in Portland, OR and have a beautiful handmade feel to them. PGC has a fantastic video of the production process that can be seen here.
Weight: 4lbs 10.2 oz.
Pros: handmade in Portland, attractive, lack of insulation makes it easy to chill
Cons: fragile, poor insulation, heavy
Shine Craft Vessels is a company that takes a lot of pride in their product. The Walkabout has simple design, single wall 18/8 stainless steel, and a screw-top cap. It’s painted, printed and polished by hand in Virginia, and it definitely shows.
Weight: 15.5 oz
Pros: painted/ polished by hand in the U.S., lightest, lack of insulation makes it easy to chill
Cons: poor insulation
While six of the seven growlers are 18/8 stainless steel, only Innate has that brushed metal finish. Drink Tanks, Eco Vessel, Hydro Flask and Miir all have a powder coat finish, which is nice and durable. My choice, came down to the two most detailed growlers: Shine Vessels and Portland Growler Company. The Walkabout from Shine Vessels is painted, printed and polished by hand in Virginia, and it definitely shows, but ultimately the growler that came home with the most compliments was The Sprocket from Portland Growler Company. They’re slip cast by hand, have a classic flip-top lid, and a namesake handle. The satin gray finish definitely compliments the classic design, and at over 4 lbs, it has a very substantial feel to it.
For this test we filled each growler with water that was exactly 40°F (the same temperature of tap beer) and closely measured the temperature for a 36 hour period. While that may seem like a long time, Eco Vessel claims on their website that their growler will keep liquid cold for 36 hours. Within the first six hours we could see a pretty substantial difference in performance: Portland Growler Company, which is ceramic, and Shine Vessels, which is single wall stainless steel, climbed pretty close to room temperature within about four hours. Drink Tanks, Hydro Flask, Innate and Miir are all double wall vacuum insulated, and performed very well, but after only six hours it was already apparent that Eco Vessel was outperforming the rest. After 36 hours the winner was clear. Eco Vessel only gained about 10°F over the full 36 hour test—very impressive. The BOSS from Eco Vessel is triple insulated, and outperformed the runner up by about 4°F. With the BOSS growler you can fill up, hit the road, and drink cold beer on the second night of your camping trip—we’ll drink to that.
As I say in the video review, ease of transport is often consumers biggest complaint when it comes to growlers. A lot of people commute to the brewery on a bike, and for those people Miir would probably be the #1 pick. Miir makes a growler cage that fits right on the top tube of a bike frame, but if you’re not using the bike, their growler doesn’t have a handle. Drink Tanks has the handle of all handles, it’s gigantic, but if you’re bringing it on a trip it would be difficult to shove in a pack. That’s why we liked Innate the best in this category. The Innate Growler has a small two-finger handle that converts into a pour handle when the lid is open. Because the lid doesn’t continue down the side of the growler it’s easy slip into a tight space in your pack. On the weight category Innate fell right in the middle of the pack.
You can’t test growlers without filling them with beer. For this test we stored beer in them for about a week and compared them in taste and carbonation. All of these growlers performed excellent in this category. All of the stainless steel growlers resisted grime very well, and the ceramic growler has a very smooth, nonporous interior—crucial in resisting funk. With that being said, this category really came down to the lids. Keeping beer fresh is all about having an airtight seal, and they all performed well. We did had an issue with The Sprocket from Portland Growler Company, but in all fairness, that was because the bartender didn’t sit the lid clamp all the way down. If you place the clamp in the indented section (where it is supposed to be) it does a great job of sealing the growler. My overall favorite growler in this category was from Drink Tanks. The double bail locking lid feels like it could keep beer fresh though a nuclear apocalypse. If you’re really serious about beer, they sell an accessory called the Keg Cap, which allows you to recharge the beer with CO2 and dispense without opening the growler. Drink Tanks is doing some pretty innovate stuff in the growler world—be sure to head over to their website to check it all out.
Picking out the right growler really comes down to what you intend on doing with it. After 8 weeks of testing here are our few recommendations:
Beer Lovers: Drink Tanks
Outdoor Enthusiast: Eco Vessel or Hydro Flask
Commuters: Innate and Miir
Detail Oriented: Shine
U.S. Made: Portland Growler Company