A craft beer event and a new growler

Something has suddenly started in the past couple of months. Perhaps I’ve reached the requisite number of readers or daily views, or I’m near the top of certain Google searches, or I’ve unknowingly tripped some other marketing trigger. Whatever it is, companies are starting to contact me about beer-related products and beer events. Would I be interested in trying out/wearing/watching/attending <insert name of product or event here>?

Why sure, I guess.

So I’ll mention one event and one item in this post.

1. Richmond Hill Craft Beer Festival, Thursday, October 17, 6:00 p.m. to midnight

First up is the Richmond Hill Craft Beer Festival happening the evening of Thursday, October 17. I was invited to attend this new event, but unfortunately I will be at an all-day conference in Toronto. (Yes, of course the conference is about beer. Duhhh!)

Nevertheless, I’m kind of fascinated by this particular beer festival. See, there are all kinds of beer festivals and events in Toronto pretty well all-year round. A hundred kilometres or more to the north, places like Barrie and Gravenhurst are starting to develop a roster of beer events. But for the territory in between Toronto and Barrie — towns like Richmond Hill, Aurora, Newmarket, and Uxbridge — the craft beer calendar is pretty barren.

So if you live in this under-served area, my advice would be to get out and support the Richmond Hill Craft Beer event —  one very successful event may very well engender others. Besides, as organizer Peter Szoke mentioned to me, the current political impasse in the United States may all come to a head on the same day as his festival — if the world’s financial markets plunge into the Abyss, you might as well drown your sorrows with good beer.

2. HydroFlask 1.89 L (64 oz) insulated growler.

HydroFlask handed these out at the Beer Bloggers’ Conference in Boston. We had our choice of a matte black finish or polished stainless steel, and Elaine and I both chose the matte black finish. I’ve actually regretted my choice a couple of times, not because I mind the matte black finish, but because I would have been interested to see if there’s any difference in performance between the black and the stainless.

HydroFlask is known for its lightweight double-walled vacuum-insulated 12-oz (355 mL) water flasks, designed to keep water cold. Their 64-oz (1.89 L) growler resembles its smaller cousins, albeit on steroids.

The growler costs about $50–$55, which is a fairly hefty investment. However HydroFlask offers a “5% Back” program: printed on the label of each flask is a unique ID number. Go to the 5% Back website, enter that code, choose a charity from a list of thirteen, and HydroFlask will donate 5% of the cost of your flask to that charity. In a very cool move, HydroFlask gave us the same opportunity even though our flasks had been gifts.

Hydroflask growler

HydroFlask growler and its glass cousin. One inch shorter, 30% lighter, still holds 1.9 L of yummy beer goodness.

In comparison to a traditional glass growler, there are significant differences in weight and size. First of all, despite its double walls and steel construction, the HydroFlask is 30% lighter than a glass growler — 765 g (26 oz) compared to 1105 g (39 oz). It’s also 2 cm (1 in) shorter and slightly narrower. Despite its smaller dimensions, it holds as much as a glass growler because it has a square, not a tapered profile.

In terms of durability, although I haven’t put either glass or steel growler to a concrete floor drop test, common sense suggests the HydroFlask would more likely survive the encounter, albeit with some ugly dents or scars (which is why I didn’t do it.)

Another advantage of the HydroFlask is complete light protection. Beer — especially hoppy beer — is susceptible to skunkiness when exposed to UV light, due to a reaction with alpha acids and sulphur compounds such as riboflavin. Brown glass helps to slow down this reaction, but does not prevent it completely. The HydroFlask, on the other hand, is completely light proof.

One thing I wonder about is the much larger mouth of the HydroFlask. More and more craft brewers have dedicated growler filler stations that flush the air out of the growler and replace it with CO2 before filling, limiting the beer’s exposure to beer-killing oxygen, and extending the life of the beer from one or two days to a couple of weeks. I don’t think that the HydroFlask can be filled at a growler filler because of its large mouth — someone tell me if I’m wrong about this — meaning that it has to be filled at the draught tap. This has to result in more oxidation of the beer simply because of the much larger opening. This means you HAVE to drink the beer within a couple of days, before the oxidation levels rise above detection thresholds.

Okay, so supposing you do drink the beer while it is still fresh and young? Does the steel interior add a metallic note? And does the vacuum insulation really make much difference to the temperature of the beer? Here’s what I did to find out: I went to the college and had a traditional glass growler and  the HydroFlask filled with the same cold beer. I put both of them in my car trunk, and drove 135 km (85 mi) to a home in north Toronto to meet some friends. By the time I got to Toronto, it was rush hour, so total driving time was almost 3 hours. Although I was quite comfortable due to air conditioning, the car trunk got quite hot. As soon as I arrived, I poured samples of each beer for my friends to evaluate.

In terms of temperature, the beer from the glass growler was just on the edge of being warm. The beer in the HydroFlask was still very cold. Score one for the HydroFlask.

In terms of taste, did the steel interior of the HydroFlask have any effect on the flavour? I couldn’t detect any difference between the two growlers, but I devised a quick duo-trio test for my friends: I poured them a sample from each growler without identifying which growler each sample came from, then gave them a third sample and asked them whether the third sample matched Sample A or Sample B. None of them were able to correctly pair the two samples from the same growler.  My conclusion, albeit with an admittedly small sample, was that there was no difference in flavour between glass and steel.

pouring

The wide mouth and short shoulder definitely makes pouring with one hand difficult. Also note the lid getting in the way, but tucking the strap of the lid under your hand only makes the flask harder to grasp.

In terms of actual mechanics, the BPA-free plastic screw top lid, held to the flask by a plastic strap, was easy to open and close, and formed a secure leak-proof seal. However, the lid tended to flop in the way during pouring. Trying to keep the lid out of the way by putting the strap under my hand only exacerbated the next problem: there is no handle, and my medium-sized hand found the wide neck and short shoulder of the HydroFlask difficult to encircle. I definitely needed both hands to pour beer when the flask was full. Since this didn’t allow me to hold the glass at the proper angle to receive the beer, pouring beer became a two-person operation. (On the other hand, pouring beer from a full glass growler has always been a challenge too — it usually involves me tucking the growler under my arm.)

In terms of clean-up, a possible downside is that these are not dishwasher-safe. However, the steel interior was easy to rinse, as was the powder-coated matte exterior. When I got home, a quick wash in soapy water and a good rinse with cold water left it beer-ready.

Pros:

  • 30% lighter, an inch shorter and slightly narrower than standard glass growler.
  • Beer is totally protected from light
  • Steel flask is presumably more drop-proof
  • Kept beer much colder in hot conditions
  • Lid was easy to open and close, and sealed securely with no leakage.
  • Easy to clean
  • HydroFlask donates 5% of the cost of your flask (about $2.50) to charity

Cons:

  • No handle and wide neck/short shoulder make it difficult to pour with one hand, especially when growler is full.
  • Screwtop lid flops in the way during pouring.
  • Much wider mouth may lead to greater oxidation — as with any growler filled at the tap, I would suggest you drink your beer within a day or so.
  • Not dishwasher-safe
  • $50 — more expensive than glass

Conclusion:

I like the HydroFlask,– it has become my go-to growler for transporting draught beer. Sure, it’s not easy to pour, but the convenience, durability, cool looks and ability to keep the beer very cold more than balance the scales. If you live in a jurisdiction that allows growler refills, and you are in the habit of drinking beer within a day or so of buying it, then the HydroFlask is a good long-term investment.

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2 Comments on “A craft beer event and a new growler”

  1. Canageek Says:

    I’m surprised no one has made a double-walled glass dewer growler. We use thin vacumn ones for holding liquid nitrogen, and they break really easily due to the vacuum between them. However, if you used thicker glass and no vacuum you’d have a *very* good temperature holding growler. Now, it would weigh more, due to the double glass, but hey, it would work. You could even do an inner glass wall and outer metal wall to cut down on the weight.


  2. […] Townsite sells growlers — as I’ve mentioned before, B.C. is one of those wonderful jurisdictions where you can bring in your own growler to get refilled. It was interesting to see that in addition to the standard glass growlers, Townsite also sells Hydr0Flask steel vacuum insulated growlers for about $50 — yes, the very same flasks I reviewed some months ago. […]


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