Go Local With Beer By The Jug
Here's a quick guide to filling growlers in our burgeoning local brewery scene
A growler originally meant a bucket that dad used to tote beer home from the saloon in an age when six-packs weren’t available. Today, a growler is a glass jug used for the same purpose. They come in 64-ounce and 32-ounce sizes, and in different shapes: the simple hillbilly jug versus the fancier swing-top bottle. All are ecologically friendly – they can be used indefinitely as long as you don’t drop them - and are a great way to enjoy draft beer in the comfort of your home.
Virginia is a very friendly state for growler sales. Brewpubs, breweries, bars and even grocery stores can sell them with the proper licensing. (By contrast, in Washington, DC, production breweries like DC Brau and Chocolate City Brewing can sell them out of their tasting rooms after their Saturday tours, but bars and brewpubs are still prohibited from filling growlers.)
Here are a few locations in the area where you can fill a jug with fresh draft beer:
- Whole Foods in Clarendon, will sell you either a quart-size growler or a 64-ounce model for $3.99. A fill-up costs $9.99 to $19.99 for the larger size, $6.99 to 16.99 for the smaller jug, depending on the rotating beer of the day or week. Look for the growler station in the northeast corner of the store, over near the cheese counter next to the wine department. They’ll fill other people’s growlers, but it’s for takeout only – no on-premise drinking, although at some point in the future, Whole Foods might offer on-premise beer sales as well. As of press time, they were offering four selections: Laughing Dog, Flying Dog Road Dog Porter, Lost Rhino Woody Stout, and Brooklyn Chocolate Stout (12 per cent ABV). They go out of their way to keep at least one local brew on tap at all times. The growlers are endlessly reusable and fit in well with Whole Foods’ environmentally friendly code of ethics.
- Rock Bottom Brewery in the Ballston Common Mall stocks the best-kept secret in Ballston - fresh, handcrafted and award-winning beer-to-go. Now available in 64-oz screw-top growlers and kegs, a new growler fill-up will run $15 or $12.50 for a refill regardless of the beer style. They will fill any growler but just have to slap a removable Rock Bottom sticker on it for ABC’s sake. Brewmaster Dave Warwick recently tapped his most recent rotating style, an Irish Stout, which joins the other regular offerings, including: Light Kolsch, a Red Ale Amber, India Pale Ale (7.8 per cent ABV), and the yummy Ballston Brown. For the best service call 703-516-7688 and ask for Dave. Last call for growlers is midnight.
- Iota Club & Café in Clarendon, would not give out their growler prices over the phone, which I finally got someone to answer after days of trying to get through and getting a “mail box full” message. Stop by and check out their 12 rotating drafts…you might have a better experience that I did.
- Mad Fox Brewing Co. in Falls Church keeps the good times flowing with 2-liter growlers for $17 (that’s just the growler, mind you.) Fills of their amazing beer selection range from $11 to $16 a clip depending on which libations they are currently pouring. Their weekly Tuesday Tappings give you a pocket break with all selections at half-price including Charlie and Bill’s award-winning Kolsch, Saison, Altbier, Orange Whip, Oatmeal Stout and the popular Molotov HopTail. Pick up the phone and give them a call at 703-942-6840 to find out more about their Meet the Brewer Happy Hours and brewpub tours. They are currently taking reservations for their Robbie Burns Scottish beer dinner on Jan. 25 and making solid plans for their second annual Barley Wine Festival in February. Their staff is knowledgeable, empowered and polite and will be happy to take your calls...live!
- Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria is celebrating its first anniversary this month with a dedicated express lane in their tap room serving up 64-ounce growlers filled with beer costing just $15, and a fill (or refill) only $10. PCBC's owner and president Bill Butcher delivers one of the best Porters I have tasted in years, and the other three flagship launch beers are always available: Monumental IPA, Essential Pale Ale and Optimal Wit. You can also buy bottles in the tasting room on Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday from 4 to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Five dollar tours are offered at 12:30, 2 and 4 p.m. on Saturdays, and take about 20 minutes and include four tickets for drinks in the tasting room and a souvenir tasting glass to keep. Call Bill at 703-797-2739 for more information, or send an email.
- Lost Rhino Brewing Company in Ashburn has a taproom that is open Wednesday – Saturday, 12 noon to 8 p.m. when you feel like some of the finest brew Virginia has to offer. They give tours on Saturdays until 6 p.m., and yes, they have growlers! Most growlers cost $8 per fill; strong and seasonal beers like their delicious winter dubbel Rhinoel cost more. A new growler will run you $10 for a screwtop model or $20 for the swing-top variety (well worth the investment). Lost Rhino Brewing masterbrewers Favio Garcia and Matt Hagerman pour their three beers in regular rotation: New River Pale Ale, Face Plant IPA and Rhino Chasers Pils. Garcia notes, “We’re dealing with some changes in ABC laws at the moment, but expect to offer bottles in the near future.”