Back in the 50s I would occasionally spend a weekend with the family of a man my father worked with. They lived across the river from Cincinnati in Newport, KY. Being hardcore Germans the drank lots of beer and most Friday and Saturday evenings were spent at the neighborhood tavern. It was a time and place in America where a friendly tavern could be found on most corners of residential areas. The TV hadn’t began to keep people glued to their sofas yet and the tavern was the neighborhood’s living room.
In the Cincinnati area there were businesses known as pony kegs. These were the equivalent of today’s drive-thru carry-outs where you could pick up a few six-packs or a quarter keg (pony keg) of locally drafted beer. We had a carry-out in Greenfield but if you wanted a six-pack it was just as common to walk into a bar and order six to go.
The thing I noticed about getting beer to go in Newport was many people used what I’ve come to know as a growler. Basically a growler is any large container that could be filled with draft beer and toted back home. It could have been a glass or ceramic gallon jug or a galvanized bucket with a lid. It was common to see a young kid carry his dad’s growler up to the bar and once filled, carry it back home for the evening’s meal or entertainment. Whether it was against any law didn’t matter, it was the custom.
Somewhere I once read that constructions sites, mines, and other such places where men worked would hire young boys as “growler boys.” Their specific job was to load up long shoulder and hand sticks with growlers, carry them to the tavern nearest the work site, get them filled, and carry them back for the men to consume as or with their lunches.
In the 1970s a friend of mine owned a small tavern near the bike shop I was a partner in. He sold draft beer and on more than one occasion one of us would make the short walk and bring back a couple of plastic milk jugs filled with sudsy brew. Didn’t know the jug was a growler then, just that its contents were refreshing.
Anyway, I recently mentioned on Facebook about having enjoying a wee pint of Belhaven Scottish Ale at a Scottish Pub in Cincinnati and a friend sent me a notice that Saturday, December 17, 2011 was National Growler Day. A day to seek out your closest craft brewer or brew pub and bring home a few gallons of their finest. Two unfortunates kept me from participating in the moment. First, I didn’t receive the notification until the day was over and there are no brew pubs in a manageable distance from me and I don’t have a clue who even sells draft beer in our area. Maybe next year I’ll wash out a milk jug, get me a six-pack, empty its contents into the jug and pretend I’m drinking a take home sample of my local brew pub’s finest. Bottoms up!
Get more CGS on Twitter. Follow @CHAPSGENSTORE