Growlers for sale at Craft & Growler, photographed September 26, 2014. 

Growlers for sale at Craft & Growler, photographed September 26, 2014. 

Evans Caglage/Staff Photographer

We recently spoke with five local beer lovers who dished about the greatness of growlers. But what is a growler, anyway? Here's a first-timers guide to finding, using and cleaning these increasingly popular vessels. Be sure to check out our other stories about where to fill and what local hopheads recommend trying.

What's a growler?

It's a container used to transport and hold beer drawn from the tap. Most have rubber-lined caps that make a tight seal to maintain freshness. The term growler dates to the late 19th century, when lidded pails were used to carry beer home from the pub. Urban legend has it that the name refers either to the growling sound the beer made as it bubbled up under the lid, or the grumbling of the customers who received skimpy fills.

How long will the beer keep?

If the growler is tightly sealed and remains unopened and chilled, the beer stays fresh for several days - even longer, if the bar has a filling system that injects carbon dioxide into the growler. Once opened, the beer can stay fresh for about 36 hours before it goes flat.

Where can I buy growlers, and what can I expect to pay?

Just about any place that fills growlers sells them (see list of growler bars). You can also buy online. Prices depend on the size of the growler and the material. For 32- or 64-ounce glass jugs, prices start at $6. Stainless steel 64-ounce growlers start around $22; stoneware and ceramic growlers are the most expensive, around $65. Smaller growlers are also available.

How do I care for a growler?

Immediately after pouring out the last of the beer, rinse the growler and its cap thoroughly with hot water. Air-dry the growler and its cap, upside down in a dish drainer; when both are completely dry, put the cap back on.

What should I try?

Community Mosaic IPA, Community Beer Co., Dallas (available year-round): Four of the five growler bar regulars we interviewed rated this beer among their favorite Texas craft beers. This beautifully balanced IPA is named for the variety of hops used to make it. It shows full hop aroma and flavor, but it doesn't overwhelm the palate with bitterness, as some American IPAs do. "I would put it up there with any of the IPAs coming in from California," beer lover Kevin Reitz says. "And it's going to be fresher, too."

Tina Danze is a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter at @TinaDanze.

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