To clean or not to clean, that is the question…
Or at least it seems to be the question everybody’s been asking now that this summer weather is turning their growlers into mini swamps. The problem is all this warmth means that any growlers left out too long, or sealed without being properly dried, cause bacteria and yeast to grow unchecked. The result can be anything from slime to funky smells to black mold, and usually means that it is unusable until you give it a good scrub.
(Don’t let this be your growler!)
Where the debate starts, is whether or not a quick hot water rinse is good enough. While many people believe that using any kind of soap or bleach on your growler will leave a residue that’ll ruin your beer, you need to take into account how long your growler has been sitting out. If you can, after pouring out the last of the beer inside your growler immediately rinse multiple times with hot water. However, if you’re out camping or at a party and can’t (or forget to) rinse it out then make sure you at least place your growler in a cold place like a refrigerator to help slow the growth of bacteria until you can give it a proper clean.
You should also make sure to give the growler a quick sniff after you rinse it. If it’s been sitting out or if it has any kind of funky smell, you should make sure to give it a quick dip in Oxyclean or a light bleach solution to make sure there’s no weird stuff growing inside. Any kind of weird smells or residues that you notice can be a sign that your growler isn’t clean enough and at best can make your beer taste off, while at worst get you sick. A good rule of thumb is that unless it smells like air, it needs to be cleaned.
Another common debate is whether or not to put the cap on the growler immediately after the rinse to keep dust/bugs out, or whether you should leave it off so everything can dry. In this case, fully drying your growler is the key to preventing your growler from becoming an accidental petri dish. By putting the cap on without giving everything time to dry, you only trap water inside that will become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. Instead, after rinsing out your growler make sure to drain it upside down until it is completely dry and then feel free to loosely put the cap back on. Most breweries will rinse your growler out before we fill it up anyways which will take care of any dust it may have accumulated.
So, to recap!
1. Upon emptying the growler, immediately rinse multiple times with hot water
2. Every once in a while, give your growler a sniff and inspect for any funkiness/mold/weird stuff
3. If anything is funky, give it a good wash in a light cleaning solution and rinse like crazy
4. Make sure you let your growler fully dry upside down before loosely putting on the cap for safekeeping
Hopefully this helps settle the Great Debate once and for all, so grab those growlers and go enjoy that PNW sunshine (while it lasts)…