Six-packs are fine, but nothing could be finer than drinking draft beer at home—a half-gallon at a time.
Officially, I moved to Colorado for the weather and for the lifestyle. Unofficially, it was for a beer jug.
Two months before I moved to Denver, my husband and I came to town to scout for homes. On that trip, we made the pilgrimage to the Wynkoop Brewing Company, where I spied a prophet: a grizzly bearded, fleece-wearing gentleman who handed an empty half-gallon jug to the bartender, slapped a 10-spot on the counter, and a few moments later got that same jug back filled with tasty tap brew.
I was sold—and, apparently, a little slow to catch on to the trend. "Growlers" date back to the late 1800s, when pails were the best beer take-out method. (Legend has it that the name "growler" originated because the carbonation escaping from the pail's lid made a growling noise.) But with mass production and canning, the practice of take-away beer declined, only to be revived in the late 1980s by modern microbreweries, which updated the idea with jugs. Colorado breweries like Wynkoop and Longmont's Left Hand Brewing Company jumped on board, eagerly sending jugged beer home with their patrons.
Now, on a regular basis, I lug my own refillable half-gallon jar (a one-time purchase of about $10) to Wynkoop, hand over my Frequent Growler Card, and take away 64 ounces of fresh beer for about 10 bucks. Yes, six-packs are cheaper—but drinking draft microbrews in your backyard is decadent. For growler rookies, here are a few tips for the best fresh suds:
Don't try to transport a newly filled growler over Vail Pass—the carbonation freaks out under quick altitude changes, and you'll end up removing beer stains from your car's upholstery. If you must carry it that far, keep it on ice and in a bag.
Don't open the jug until you're ready to enjoy—the cap is a primitive sealing device; crack it slightly and your beer will go flat quickly. Drink up after two or three days.
Do pour several glasses at once, as the beer settles a bit, leaving some yeast at the bottom.
Do be kind to people who bring growlers instead of six-packs to soirees. These folks are rare, and should be appreciated.
Do proselytize. If anyone points to your growler and asks, "What is that?"—like a neophyte asked me just months after I moved to Denver for good—spread the good word.
Get it to Go
Wynkoop Brewing Company
1634 18th St., 303-297-2700
Take Away A moderate IPA, the Monkey's Fist blend is a light pick for summer, with citrus and caramel undertones.
The Bill $13; $9 refill
Left Hand Brewing Company
1265 Boston Ave., Longmont, 303-772-0258
Take Away The Imperial Stout is pricey—most of Left Hand's Growlers are $6 cheaper—but the dark brew is worth it.
The Bill $16; $14 refill
Golden City Brewery
920½ 12th St., Golden, 303-279-8092
Take Away The malty and slightly smoky Legendary Red Ale is one of the brewery's original concoctions. Join in the regulars' card game while you wait.
The Bill $14; $11 refill
Boulder Beer Company
2880 Wilderness Place, Boulder, 303-444-8448
Take Away Brewed to celebrate the company's 30th anniversary, the fine Flashback Anniversary Ale is only available through September.
The Bill $9.10; $8.18 refill