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What You're Really Paying for That Beer

64-ounce jugs (Growlers)

Don't like dealing with all the recycling of a six-pack and just want enough of a beer from the local taproom or brewpub for you and some of your friends? If you're lucky enough to live in a state that allows it, you can bring your resealable glass jug/aluminum container/earthenware vessel up to the tap, fill it and head home.

Like bombers, they're great for small breweries that don't have a lot of space on hand for packaging and don't have a lot of resources to dedicate to bottling or canning. They're also great for beer lovers who like a small brewery's beer well enough to bring some home but can't find any on premises.

That said, bombers have their own set of issues. The standard-issue glass-and-screwtop bomber has a very finite limit for how long it can keep your beer fresh. Carbonate it and keep it closed and you'll be good for a week or so. Once it's open, however, you've got about two days before it's completely flat. You're basically opening an entire six-pack at once, so unless you know you and your friends aren't going to drink it immediately, don't bank on it for storage.

Airtight, light-blocking aluminum growlers prevent this problem to a degree, but are about six times as costly as the glass growlers that go for $3 to $5 a pop. Carbonated taps for their caps are in development, but not widely available. In any case, a drinker also has to clean and sterilize it regularly, otherwise every beer poured into it afterward will taste just a bit off.

Finally, there's the small matter of price. Filling a growler at out local homebrew shop costs between $11 and $13, depending on the beer. That's a $12.38 to $14.63 six-pack, which is pricey but not always terrible based on the brand and style. When you find a brewery, shop or pub that plays along and has a special -- a nearby pub has a weekly $7 growler fill (a $7.88 six-pack) -- a growler becomes a considerably better investment.

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