What is a Growler?

Ask any lover of beer and, once you’ve got past the furtive grin, he or she (OK he, if there was a grin) will tell you a growler is a large bottle for filling and refilling with beer, usually at the local bottle shop.

Very soon, if our friends at IPONZ have anything to do with it, unless that bottle shop is owned by Hancock’s Wine and Spirit Merchants you won’t be allowed to called it a growler.

The granting of trademarks on well-used, well-known words and phrases seems to be the stock-in-trade of IPONZ who have recently been in the news for granting the RADLER trademark, when Radler is a well-known style of beer and VINTAGE trademark for cheese products, where Vintage is a well-known style of cheese.

SOBA strongly objects to the trademarking of any such well-known or well-used phrase or word as it is restrictive to trade and is a very real sign of the ceaseless erosion of our language, as she is spoken, for commercial interest alone.

Please add comments below if you have been aware of the term “growler” for describing a vessel used to hold beer.

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  1. Can’t remember when I first heard of growler for a beer vessel but it was long ago.

  2. Galbraiths has sold growlers for _ages_. For at least the past 3-4 years.

  3. I absolutely have heard of a “growler” as a generic term used to mean a takeaway /fill your own container for beer. The “growler” I’m most familiar with is a plastic (PET) screw cap brown bottle, most commonly 1.25l to 2l in size. Glass is still predominantly used in brewpubs in the USA.

  4. For goodness sake, I’m drinking beer from a growler right now. Not again IPONZ, please…

  5. I heard about it years ago, commonly known term in the US and used in NZ a lot

  6. Being a long time follower of the beer culture in America of course I know what a Growler is. In fact I had a collection of several of them that unfortunately could not make the move to NZ with me. Wish I had them now, especially if they were still full of the great beers i purchased them with.

  7. If you wan to get the message to the top maybe check out companies house and maybe contact the 2 directors to voice your displeasure.


  8. Last time I looked, the trademark application was “under consideration”, NOT “accepted”. For the time being, I believe, the only culprit here is Hancocks, not IPONZ.

  9. Yep, I know of it.

    There’s a good article (written in 2002) on the term’s long history on Beeradvocate.


  10. I’ve been using the term Growler in relation to beer for at least 4 years now. We’ve used the term in advertisements at Hashigo Zake as well.

  11. I have been familiar with the term ‘growler’ since the early 90s. I’m pretty sure I was first made aware of the term by “All About Beer”, a US-based magazine to which I used to subscribe, but I also have beer-loving family in the US, so it may have come from them.

  12. I too am familiar with the term ‘growler’ for beer vessel….

  13. I am standing in Seattle and am (randomly) about 20 meters from a brewery that advertises growlers.

  14. Of course I am familiar with the term. Being from the states, it was common to use this term for take-away containers. In the past couple years, several places in NZ have used the term as well. I assumed everyone knew the term.

  15. It appears Wikipedia knows about it and provides insight to the naming. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_bottle#Growler

  16. Just check out almost any beer forum on the internet and you will find the term growler mentioned, but I’m sure that years of prior, worldwide, public domain use won’t matter to IPONZ or even enter into their equation.

  17. I can’t believe IPONZ is still behaving badly, even after the Radler and Vintage stuff-ups – Someone in their office needs a good spanking! As for Hancocks – Well we all know where their allegiances lie(on). Lobby your MP’s re IPONZ, please.

  18. Heard of the term years ago. always an eyebrow raiser here in nz…

  19. This seems to trace the “growler” back to the 18th century


  20. You can email Hancocks too [email protected]

  21. I was only aware of the use of “Growler” as a beer vessel after an amusing conversation with some friends from Alaska.
    They were more embarassed than I was.

  22. I’m totally channeling “Bevis” right now…. But yes I’ve known the term Growler refers to a pubpet for years now. American cultural norms are more all pervading than the Germans ones I guess.

  23. I heard about growlers when I first came to NZ about 8 years ago.

  24. Been aware of this use of the word “Growler” for two years now, but don’t use it myself. My cultural heritage is the word “flagon”. 😉

  25. Infact, I have a Growler of Rogue beer at home that I got from Beerstore.co.nz

  26. I was aware of the Growler term but always preferred the use of Flagon.
    Doesn’t mean I don’t want it taken away from the vernacular like Radler has been stolen…

  27. I first heard the term “growler” more than 20 years ago and only since moving to New Zealand learned of the local synonym of “rigger”. I use both interchangeably.

    Here is a photo of the first growler I bought in 1993: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ambientspace/tags/growler/

  28. I also use the word growler on my web site.

  29. Why not send an email to Hancock’s and tell them what you think about this? Or why not stop buying from them?

  30. This term has been in common use, at least in the US, Canada and UK for many years. In the US it refers to a half-gallon refillable bottle, in Canada and UK generally around 2L. To allow a single firm in NZ to claim ownership of what is clearly a generic term undermines the very purpose of trade-marks: to protect original product designations for the benefit of those who have invested time, money, and other resources into building a brand.

  31. I like the word growler because of its amusing double connotations and have been aware that it is used as a term to describe a fill your own vessel that is sort of similar to a half gallon jar.

  32. My friend Adam did a far north of America trip last year, he made many growler jokes like , “can you fill my Growler” or ” my growler is hungry”. The staff just looked at him like he was a stupid skinny longhair and asked if he wanted some beer.

  33. Growler is a common term. I brought back a beautiful glass Growler from San francisco. A little pub called The Magnolia Bar sells Growlers. hancocks can not or should not be able to obtain the rights to this common term.

  34. As the manager of Sunshine Brewery, Gisborne, I can assure you that the term ‘Growler’ is well-known to me and several of our clients, as are the terms’Flagon’ and ‘Rigger’.
    We have been considering purchasing and using Growlers for quite some time.
    P.S. No-one can own the word ‘Car’, can they? (No different).

  35. Geoff Logan says “lie (on)” referring to Hancocks’s loyalty – ummm – maybe he needs to do better research. Hancocks are the only NZ owned company in the top end in this field. Yes – companies should not trademark commonly used names (Radler is an offensive example) and I am sure Glengarrys (they are the retail stores – Hancock’s is a distributor) are just trying to get one over the big boys (those overseas owned companies). When did a family owned and operated company like Hancock’s or Glengarrys become a evil corporate giant?

  36. What? Growler is absolutely common use. Bizarre.

  37. I’ve been filling and emptying growlers for about as long as I’ve been legally drinking, over 20 years. Growler, rigger, flagon, all common and interchangable.

  38. Grrrrrrr…. this makes me want to growl! I have been hearing my dad refer to refillable beer bottles as growlers, riggers and flagons since i was about 5… at least 21 years. I also have a number of friends in the USA and Canada who will often tell me what their growler fill was this week. Cmon IPONZ. Shame on you Hancocks.

  39. I, too, am familiar with the use of “growler” in this way. In fact, I have four or five empty growlers in my basement, awaiting refill.

  40. I have been familiar with, and have purchased beer in Growlers for at least 15 years.

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s a standard measure for a takeaway container of beer, and used in the same context as Pint, Litre or barrel.

    If Growler is up for being trademarked, have applications for Flagon & Rigger been submitted also? (Heavy does of sarcasm applies).

  41. “Growler” is a common term describing a jug used to hold beer.

    I own several growlers and use them as delivery vessels for my home brew. I believe they even have the word “Growler” etched on them.

    Bad IPONZ!!!

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