The origin of the term “growler” is the subject of debate, and likely, the true story will never be known. But as the story goes, in the latter half of the 1800’s, growlers referred to metal pails that were used to transport beer from the local tavern to an individual’s home.
There are those who believe the term arose from the sound that the pail’s cover made from the escaping carbon dioxide, while others believed the growling came from another source.
The latter belief is that either the bartender or the customer would be responsible for the growling, as the bartender was supposed to fill the half-gallon container with only a pint of beer, while the customer wanted to get a pail that had much more than just a pint. Whichever party was left dissatisfied would “growl” about the issue, hence the very apt term.
There was actually a period of time in which the use of growlers was outlawed, mainly stemming from the fact that children were often sent out to pick up a pail full of beer for their father. This chain of custody issue caused alarm in many of the same types of people who worked in support of prohibition, and the alarm led many cities to outlaw the use of these containers altogether.
The beer growler eventually regained popularity, and the present form of container is among the most widely used for transporting craft beer from its source.