A Cooler and a Growler Walk Into a Bar

The Christmas shopping season is upon us and beer lovers are hoping to find some items under the Christmas tree as well. What better gift than a way to transport beer, keep it fresh and keep it cold? Grizzly Coolers and Hydro Flask have you covered with the Grizzly 16 cooler and the Hydro Flask 64 oz Beer Growler. Instead of just telling you about these items, we put them to the test. 

First, a brief introduction to each item. The Grizzly 16 is a premium cooler designed for outdoors activities where maximum efficiency from a cooler is a plus. The rubber gasket in the lid makes for a perfect seal which keeps your contents cold longer and the bear-proofing provides a reliable closure, not to mention the ability to keep your contents secure with a padlock. Additionally, the Grizzly 16 is capable of holding traditional glass growlers as well as the Hydro Flask. The Hydro Flask is a stainless steel, double-walled vacuum-insulated growler. In other words, this isn’t your grandpa’s glass growler.

I first put the growler through a pre-test, filling it with ice and leaving it on my desk for 48 hours. After opening the growler after 2 days, I poured out the melted ice and was impressed that only 9 ounces of water came out. The rest of the ice was still intact. In fact, it had frozen into a single mass, refusing to leave the growler.

Next was the stress test. With Thanksgiving on Thursday, and plenty to do preparing for the day, I got the beer taken care of first, filling three growlers one week before the day of the feast.  Two would be placed inside the Grizzly cooler loaded with ice. One would remain outside of the cooler. Everything was then stored in a shed in my back yard, subject to the warm California autumn air.

The night before Thanksgiving, the lone growler left out of the cooler was opened for testing. Poured into a room temperature glass, the beer poured at 52 degrees. While not ice cold, the beer was still cool on the palate and was given the approval of even the most casual beer drinkers as being suitably cooled.

The next day, the Grizzly was opened. The ice had all melted but the water was noticeably cool. The growlers kept the beer as cold as the previous day and the quality of the beer was perfect. Each growler that opened let out an audible hiss and there was no sign of leakage from either the cooler or the growler. It would be safe to say, that given a 1-week stress test, I would be confident in leaving this combination of cooler and growler unattended for multiple days and not worried about the condition of the beer.

While I am a big fan of both items, I will say that I did have some nits to pick with each. The Grizzly, despite its small size, felt a little cumbersome. My instinct to grab the cooler, pick it up and move it was always interrupted as I looked for a good grip, or contemplated grabbing the shoulder strap or hanging rubber handles.

With the Hydro Flask my biggest concern was brought to my attention while getting filled. The bartender handed me the flasks and commented “I think they’re full.” Indeed, with foam filling the opening and completely opaque body, there was no way to verify how full these growlers were. Growler fillers can help decrease the amount of head in the fill, but waiting for head to dissipate just to take a peek at the beer is not an ideal option when filling a growler. Upon opening the growlers it was apparent that they were not in fact full. While only slightly annoying for me, I would imagine if the growler made a cross-country trip with highly sought after contents, anything short of full would be a great disappointment.

Another note, and not necessarily a drawback, but the design of the double-walled, vacuum-insulation means that these growlers are not effective at cooling by any means. Once the beer has reached room-temperature, it must be moved to a new vessel in order to be cooled. The concept is one that maintains temperatures, hot or cold, not one that allows for warming or heating of the contents.

I purposely put these items through a test that involved minimal preparation, the idea being these may be kept in a trunk of a car and pulled out when needed. Instead of pushing the bartender to insure a 100% fill, I allowed a worst-case scenario to emerge. Even under these conditions, the package performed great. For best results, the growlers can be pre-cooled with ice and water. A complete fill will also keep temperature longer. The Grizzly cooler would have the same pre-treatment methods. Fill with ice the night before and replace the ice when placing items in the cooler. Minimizing air within the cooler and avoiding opening unnecessarily are good suggestions for any cooler, especially when keeping items cold longer is the goal.

When it’s all said and done, the Hydro Flask and Grizzly combination is a great addition for any craft beer fan. The value of this combination increases with the distances you might travel to get beer. Compact enough to fit in the trunk or even on the floor of the back seat in some vehicles, I imagine I will have these items with me just about everywhere I go.

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