East End Brewing Switching to Amber Growlers

By Andy Sparhawk

We started the Brewers’ Banter blog to share the stories of craft brewers and their beers straight from the source.

It’s so refreshing to read blogs like East End Brewing Co.’s, where author, Scott Smith, doesn’t just share what’s new at the Pittsburgh, Pa., brewery, he really lets you in on his thoughts and decisions about things going on at brewery.

The result is a blog that not only informs, but endears you to the brewery and the author. It feels like you’re hanging out with him at the tap room sharing a pint when you read his blog.

Scott was kind enough to let us repost his most recent post on switching from clear glass growlers to amber.


It’s Time We Caught Up With You

By Scott Smith, East End Brewing

We’re switching our 64oz growlers over to AMBER glass from CLEAR, and the price of the container is going up a buck. Want to learn why we’re doing this? Why we didn’t do it sooner? Read on.

At first it was clear… about nine years ago, back when we were first getting started, I made the decision to go with CLEAR glass growlers. This seemingly simple decision was the result of a long, drawn-out series of debates and conversations between myself and anyone around me who cared to listen (so yeah, pretty much just me)…about the merits of clear versus amber glass growlers.

As I’m sure you know, clear glass is not exactly an ideal container for beer, as it offers zero protection from damaging sunlight. Maybe you’ve even heard me say at the brewery that a nice hoppy beer can skunk in a clear Growler in as little as 60 seconds of direct sun. While it might be hard to imagine direct sunlight in Pittsburgh in late January, it’s for real. (And if you’d like to ruin some beer on a bright sunny day, give it a try. Pour two pints of BigHop, keep one in the shade, put one in direct sun for a minute. It’s really quite remarkable.)

A few years later, we introduced our Growler Koozies to help with problem. They keep the light off the beer, while keeping it nicely chilled too! (Again…it’s January. Use your imagination). But, that still doesn’t explain the original decision: Why on Earth would I decide that clear glass is the way to go, when everyone knows amber is better for the beer?

Well, there’s a few other reasons. And actually, most of them are all about you…

Fill, drink, rinse, repeat…when we started filling growlers back in 2005, these containers were still pretty new to the fresh crop of GOOD BEER fans finding their way to our little spot in Homewood. People didn’t really know how to handle them, and some asked me why I called them growlers, like I invented them or something.

So we did what we could to educate: I put a big paragraph on the back of the jug offering some handling tips, and we did LOTS of coaching at Growler Hours every week. And we were thankful for that clear glass, since it’s pretty easy to tell if the container we’re about to fill…fill with that beer we’ve spent the last 2-3 weeks making sure is in absolutely tip-top shape… It’s easy to tell if that jug is clean.

But in spite of our best efforts, we’d still see jugs come in after spending summer in the back seat of a car with two tablespoons of leftover beer in the bottom. Or we’d see “clean” growlers come back in with black fur growing inside the cap—containers that were never allowed to thoroughly dry after rinsing. “Go ahead and fill it up. The beer will kill that.”  Umm…not really. It’s kind of the other way around.

But thankfully, it seems those days are gone for good. While we still see dirty growlers come in from time to time, these instances are really quite rare. I’d like to think this as just another sign of how much the Pittsburgh craft beer scene has grown over the years—and we couldn’t be more thrilled about the progress!!!

Keeping up with you… fast forward to today, nine years after that decision, and 45,000 new East End Brewing Growlers later (Aside: mind blown here!), I figured it was time to make the switch to amber. Heck, you’ve probably been ready for a long time, but we also had a new logo to work in there too.

Sure, it’s not as easy to check if the jug is clean before filling (though a good sniff speaks volumes). It’s also a little trickier to tell what’s in the jug if it’s not marked, or see when it’s nearly full when we’re putting beer into it for you. And, there is the bigger downside of amber glass costing more than clear. (Even when you buy eight pallets at a time and sell them at cost like we do. These go for $4 a piece, up a buck from the clear jug price).

But I keep coming back to this: It’s better for the beer. Every single time, its better for the beer. Who can argue with that?

Of course, we’ll continue to fill, refill, sell, buy-back and resell our old “vintage” clear glass jugs (at $3 each) while our old stock lasts. But thanks to you and your downright CULTURED taste in GOOD BEER by the growler, they won’t last very long. In fact, we’re pretty much sold out at the brewery already.

So here’s to progress! As usual, we couldn’t have done it without you. I mean really…45,000 growlers filled? I can’t even get my head around that number. And that’s not even counting refills. Just think of all the packaging we’ve kept out of the waste and recycling streams!!! But maybe I’ll save that as a separate post for another day.

Thanks everyone! As usual, you rock.

Cheers – Scott

Read East End Brewing’s blog to keep up Scott’s writings about the brewery.

Andy Sparhawk, the Brewers Association's craft beer program coordinator, is a Certified Cicerone® and BJCP Beer Judge. He lives in Arvada, Colorado where he is a homebrewer and avid craft beer enthusiast. On occasion, Andy is inspired to write on his experiences with craft beer, and if they are not too ridiculous, you might see the results here on CraftBeer.com.

Read more from Andy Sparhawk