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What Is a Crowler? (+Benefits of Crowlers vs. Growlers)

Breweries

What Is a Crowler? (+Benefits of Crowlers vs. Growlers)

April 26, 2020

what-are-crowlers

As the popularity of craft beer exploded in the last decade, the demand for take-home beer has surged. Craft breweries met the demand by selling standard beer cans, as well as refillable beer growlers for their most dedicated consumers.

However, these two options were limiting for breweries and beer drinkers. Normal six-packs were not enough for customers, and growlers were too big and went flat within a few days of taking it home from the taproom.

Then in 2002, Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont Colorado partnered with the Ball Corporation to explore new ways of packaging craft beer to solve the problem of shelf-life The partnership resulted in a beer-canning revolution: an on-demand seaming-machine prototype that sealed one can at a time to create a hybrid of the beer can and growler – thus the crowler was born.

What Is a Crowler?

A crowler is an oversized 32-ounce, air-tight sealed, aluminum beer can that craft breweries use to package and sell beer in their taprooms, designed for easier transportation back to customer’s homes and for staying fresh longer.

What Is the Process of Filling Crowlers?

Crowlers start as an empty can without a lid. Breweries then use a beer-labeling machine to place the custom label or branding on the can.

The crowler is then filled using a tube from the beer lines to the bottom of the can, which is filled with CO2. The can is then purged of the CO2 and the now-empty crowler is quickly filled with beer and vacuum sealed.

filling-a-crowler

Benefits of Crowlers

While crowlers have many benefits for breweries and beer drinkers, here are the main reasons crowlers have surged in popularity in recent years.

1. Air-Tight Seal

Crowlers are canned using a machine that ensures an air-tight seal, meaning that carbonation is locked inside the can as it’s transported or stored.

2. Reflects UV Light

UV light has a negative effect on the taste of beer, that is why growlers having dark, tinted glass. With crowlers, the packaging is made of solid aluminum, meaning that all sunlight is reflected off the can.

3. Longer Shelf Life

Crowlers are vacuum-sealed using professional-canning equipment, meaning that a beer crowler has a long shelf life in comparison to other forms of beer packaging.

4. Mobility

Crowlers are 32oz aluminum cans, meaning they are easier to ship to customers, get back home, carry to events, and bring on trips.

How Long Does a Crowler Last?

With its vacuum-sealed containers, a crowler keeps its freshness and original carbonation for upwards of 2 to 3 weeks. Remember that the sloppy canning process and/or storing the beer in poor conditions can lead to crowlers having a shorter shelf life.

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Crowlers vs. Growlers

Crowlers and growlers are the two most popular forms of craft beer packaging for breweries selling their product. 

GrowlersCrowlers
Size64 ounces32 ounces
Shelf-Life3-5 days2-3 weeks
Cost$20-$30 per new growler$9-$12 per new crowler
Packaging MaterialGlassAluminum
Re-useableYesNo
UpkeepNeeds cleaned between refillsNone
Pouring & Sealing ProcessHand-poured & sealedPoured & sealed using a bottling machine

While growlers have their perks such as size and re-useability, crowlers were born out of solving many of the problems growlers presented.

crowler-vs-growler-comparison

Left – Crowler | Right – Growler

Keep in mind that growlers and crowlers complement one another and craft breweries are best offering both types of packaging for selling beer.

growler-vs-crowler

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How to Sell Crowlers at Your Brewery

Crowlers offer breweries another product to package and sell its craft beer in. The barrier of entry for craft breweries to sell crowlers is very low, so there is no reason for breweries to not take advantage of the opportunity.

1. Find a Crowler Supplier

First, you’ll need to find a supplier for your crowler cans. There is only one supplier of crowlers – the Ball Corporation – but quite a few distributors.

Popular distributors for breweries to buy crowler cans from include:

Crowlers have been growing in popularity in the craft-brewing industry in recent years. With the closure of taprooms due to the COVID-19 outbreak, breweries are forced to rely on to-go sales, furthering the rise in popularity of crowlers among those in craft-brewing circles. 

With crowler sales through the roof, the Ball Corporation hasn’t been able to keep up with the demand. Breweries are unable to re-fill their stock of crowler cans, breaking the supply chain for breweries and furthering the negative impact breweries are experiencing from the stay-at-home orders.

2. Select Labels for Your Crowlers

You have the option between two types of crowler labels, pressure-sensitive labels or shirk labels. 

Next you’ll need to design the labels for your beer. 

Branding is important for your crowlers, and you’ll need to invest in a label design that resonates with your customers and helps your brewery make its mark in the craft beer market. You’ll also need to follow the legal standard labeling regulations for beer.

The Alcohol and Tabacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) states that anyone selling beer is required to include the following on the product’s label:

  • Brand Name
  • Beer Class Designation (ie. Ale, IPA, Stout)
  • Brewey Name & Address
  • Net Contents
  • Alcohol Content
  • Disclosure of Specific Ingredients
  • Health Warning Statement
  • Country Produced In

 

You’ll also need to buy a beer crowler labeling machine in order to have professional-grade labeling for your cans.

3. Buy a Beer-Canning Machine

Next, you’ll need to purchase a beer-canning machine for your crowlers. Remember, the main perk of selling crowlers is the shelf-life of the product. That’s why it’s crucial to research beer-canning machines to find a quality supplier.

There are quite a few suppliers of crowler-canning machines for craft breweries including:

4. Promote Your New Crowlers

Finally it’s time to promote your new crowlers. Be sure to update your breweries on-site and digital menus and announce the new product on your website, social media, and in local markets.

Keep in mind that crowlers are a relatively new concept, and many outside the industry won’t know what a crowler is or will assume its another term for a growler. Be sure to create a plan to help educate your customers on the benefits of crowlers with in-taproom signage, on the brewery’s menu, and in other mediums.

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