For real beer aficionados, there can be few things more satisfying than sampling something new in a well-designed and welcoming brewpub, and then taking home a growler to continue enjoying the brew for days to come.

Growler is best defined as “ ... a glass or ceramic jug with a capacity of 0.5 U.S. gallons (1,900 ml) used to transport draft beer in Australia, the United States and Canada. They are commonly sold at breweries and brewpubs as a means to sell take-out beer. The exploding growth of craft breweries and the growing popularity of home brewing has also led to an emerging market for the sale of collectible growlers.”

Cool.

BUT, there is some debate as to the real usefulness of growlers.

The most simple facts are these:

A) Growlers are great tools for microbreweries and brewpubs to move more product.

B) Consumers need to be thoughtful and careful how they make use of growlers because they can be disappointing. What they tasted at the pub may not be what they are tasting at home.

Here’s the story.

You fill up a growler of really, Really, REALLY good ale at your local pub.

You then walk outside, across the parking lot, and get in the car.

You stop at the grocery story for some dinner goodies. The growler is left on the seat - or even on the floor of the car.

You finally get home, and open the bottle up for a sip. You enjoy a good glass of brew.

The next day after work, you hurry home and crack the growler for another good glass of the ale of which you have such fond memories.

But ...YUCK! This isn’t the same stuff!

Listen, class. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. The biggest enemies of good beer are light, air and temperature.

Exposure to strong light as you stroll across the parking lot can be enough to cause change in your beer. The heat in your car certainly can be damaging, and the air invading the bottle as soon as you open it the first time can be pretty devastating.

If you want to buy a growler, know this and know it well:

n You have a relatively short window of time during which you’ll be able to enjoy the same quality of beer you tasted at the brewpub.

n You must isolate the growler from light – even for the walk across the parking lot. It’s not that hard. Wrap it in a towel ... or something.

n You must keep it cool. Don’t buy a growler of great ale if you have a long-ish ride home and you don’t have a cooler in the car. It’s just a waste of money. (And, no, having the air conditioning on simply isn’t enough.

n And finally, after you crack the bottle at home, plan on having some good friends over and finishing the growler in pretty short order.

If you are using the growler to transport beer home for personal use – one good sized glass a day – it will probably become flat or even “skunked” by the bottom of the bottle. (Don’t dump it though! You can still make good use of flat beer while whipping up a delicious beef stew.)

Growlers are really meant to move good amounts of beer from one place to another, not for long term storage of quality brew.

If you properly transport your growler home and leave it sealed in the fridge until next weekend, it will most likely last a good week – maybe a little more. Keep your growlers cold.

If you think you can take a growler home and slowly but surely sip away at it for a week or more ... good luck with that.

Don’t buy the fruit of a brewmiester’s labor, only to head out to your car and have it skunk along the way home. That’s just sad. A brewing friend of mine pointed out that she had better luck with darker ales in growlers than with lighter lagers. She also noted that trying to move IPA’s in growlers was a challenge, and often a losing challenge. It’s all a matter of chemistry.

There are now some really nice stainless steel growlers on the market. (I WANT ONE ... PLEEEEEASE!!!)

But, you MUST keep these containers spotlessly clean between transports. Nothing will skunk a beer faster than oils or residue left over from the last batch.

Double YUCK!

Look, classmates, there are advantages to purchasing beer in growlers.

At the end of the day, growlers are great for moving beer around that isn’t commercially marketed in other ways – cans or bottles. But know this: There is really no better way to have a beer at home than the good, ol’ fashioned 12-ounce bottle. It is the most effective and efficient way of marketing a rather delicate and sensitive product.

KIDD DARK LAGER

Fort Collins Brewing

Fort Collins, Colo.

This is another of the gift brews lugged across the country for me by a good friend.

I’m glad he did!

Kidd pours dark and mysterious. A deep brown with hints of gold and amber flecking the brew.

There was a very nice head that settled quickly leaving a negligible sheen of beige foam.

This is a heavily malted beer with hints of chocolate and caramel that usually can be more readily found in ales than in lagers – even if they are dark lagers.

As this brew warms a bit, there are continuing hints of hidden pleasures – sweet but not overly so.

This is really quite a creamy, smooth brew.

Kidd is very much a story of the grain list and the malting process.

At first sip, the roasted grains are very evident, and there is an almost toasted aspect to the maltiness.

There certainly are hops, but quite frankly, they are not substantial and just present enough to bring a hint of balance to the mix.

Toward the end, the chocolate-ish blend really seems to make itself even better known.

These Fort Collins guys really spent time cueing this recipe to perfection.

A drinking partner noted a hint of bitterness at the end. I did not.

This is a hearty brew. Strong bodied and with just the right amount of fizz.

This actually would go well with a good cigar.

Kidd was a very, very nice brew. I can see myself buying more ... if I can find it in the area.

Well thought out, and most certainly well paired with more hearty meals or sharper cheeses. Actually, a hard crusty roll, a healthy slice of a strong cheddar, and a glass of Kidd would make a great late afternoon meal.

YPSI GYPSY

Arbor Brewing Co.

Ypsilanti

This Michigan brew pours quite hazy and is a straw yellow color. There’s a lot going on in this bottle. Don’t get scared off by a little bit of sediment. It is well carbonated and has a good head when poured just right. The head lasts a good while and goes a long way toward “advertising” the strong aromas.

There is a lot to study as you hold this up for a healthy sniff. The hoppiness is already well noticed early on. There are a lot of fruity after-scents wafting around as you swirl your glass. This seems like a very orange/citrusy brew ...

Until you taste it.

Then, Ypsi Gypsy is simply all about hops.

Lots and lots of hops.

At first wash, there is obviously more to Ypsi Gypsy than just the hops, but this brew will really go one of two ways.

1) If you like hops, you’ll love this somewhat bitter, certainly floral mix.

2) If you don’t like hops, you just won’t get to far into this brew.

I lean toward the “malt forward” ales, but this hoppy brew isn’t too sassy to turn me off.

There is a certain refreshing aspect to the strong floral quality of good hops on a nice hot day, but you need to realize from the get-go, this is a bitter beer in the British style of “bitters.”

Ypsi Gypsy would pair nice with pizza or anything awash in tomato sauce – such as spaghetti dishes.

The complementing bitter elements will end up being quite nice in tandem.

Don’t be put off by my “hoppy” report. Give this a try – well chilled, at the right time and in the right place.