Up in the Pacific Northwest, SFoodie had friends who'd keep a couple of the 64-ounce jugs in their trunk on road trips just in case they passed a brewpub. They'd fill the growlers up at the taps, then bring home beer to drink a few days later. Once we moved, we started hearing about friends in the Bay Area who were stocking their fridge with growlers. (A New York Times
article from a few years back provides some background intel
on the glass bottles.)
We always assumed it was a cheaper way to drink. So last week, we embarked on a project to compare a few pints of beer that we'd drink at the brewpub against beer from growlers kept in the fridge for a few days. That's when we realized that we didn't have the budget.
At Magnolia, for example, a 20-ounce pint of Prescription Pale costs $6. Refilling a half-gallon/2-liter growler ($8 for a flip-top glass container, which you keep until the end of time) with the beer costs $17. That works out to be 3.5 imperial pints for the cost of almost 2.8, so you're essentially saving yourself $4 ― but only after paying for the bottle. In addition, the growler program doesn't cover cask-conditioned ales.
We called around to every brewery and brewpub in town, and found that some places offer a significant discount, while others charge essentially their pub prices for beer. The advantage there, of course, is that you take limited-release, unbottled microbrews home to drink ― beer world's equivalent of bringing home a couple bottles after a day of wine-tasting.
Following is a list of growler prices for San Francisco breweries:
Anchor Brewing Company: Does not sell beer by the growler.
Beach Chalet, 1000 Great Hwy,
Growler: $12 (includes beer). Refills: $8.
Gordon Biersch, 2 Harrison (at Embarcadero), 243-8246.
First growler plus beer (screwtop bottle): $30. Refills: $10.
Magnolia Pub, 1398
Haight (at Masonic), 864-7468.
Growler plus first fill: $25. Refills: $17.
Rogue Ales Public House, 673 Union
(at Powell), 362-7880.
Growler: $4. Beer: $17-$21.
Social Kitchen and Brewery: Not selling growlers yet.
Speakeasy, 1195 Evans (at Keith),
Growlers available Fridays from 4 p.m.-8 p.m.; ask the brewery about price.
ThirstyBear, 661 Howard (at Third St.), 974-0905.
Growler: $8, or $16 filled with beer. Refills: $10-$12.
Amendment, 563 Second St. (at South Park), 369-0900.
Growler: $3.95. Beer: $15.95 and up.
In addition, this Chowhound discussion has information on a few additional East Bay and South Bay brewpubs' growler policies.