Jennifer Halda loves hoppy IPAs. And, when she visits different cities for her job in logistics, she loves to try new and unique offerings from local brewers.

But even for a logistics pro, it's not easy to get the fresh taste of small-batch craft brews at home. That's why Halda travels with her own
carryout container: A half-gallon glass jug known as a growler.

"I keep an empty growler in my car, in case I'm somewhere and I find something I like," she explained. "A lot of times you can get beers on tap that you may not be able to find in a bottle."

Growlers have long been a fixture at local brewpubs like Barley's and Elevator. Now their use is spreading to other bars and a growing number of specialty retailers, fueled not just by beer lovers like Halda, but by locavore and green attitudes. Reusing your own beer bottle may be ultimate form of recycling.

The Barrel and Bottle, the wine and beer shop at the North Market, refills growlers from a rotating selection of three taps. (Barrel and Bottle sells the reusable glass containers for $5, and charges $10 to $12 for the four-pint refill, which are pretty typical prices.)

The shop focuses on Ohio brewers like Weasel Boy, Hoppin' Frog and Columbus Brewing Company, according to co-owner Jen Burton, and since the selection changes every week, customers get a chance to try something different every time they stop by for a refill.

"We generally try to get things [brewers] don't bottle, because that's kind of the point," Burton said. "It's a way for people to get something at a retail store that they normally wouldn't be able to get."

Beer also travels better in a keg than in a six-pack, which results in a much fresher product in your growler. "Draft beer just tastes better," Burton added.

And don't forget the cool factor. "People get real excited when you show up at a party with a growler of fresh beer," Halda said.

"There are a lot of great microbrews in Ohio. If you're just getting into beer, seeking out those places is awesome," she added. "I think the beer culture is gaining momentum, and growlers are becoming more popular. I would love to see that help local craft brewers blossom."

GOOD TO GO
How to make the most of that beer in your growler

Filling station: Bars and retailers that accommodate growlers use a hose to fill from the bottom, minimizing foam

Wrap the cap: A piece of electrical tape will help seal the bottle top and fend off air

In the dark: Amber growlers protect your beer from damaging light better than clear glass

Keep your cool: If it comes out of a cold keg, you should get it into your fridge as soon as possible

Drink up: Beer will stay fresh in a sealed growler for a couple days, sometimes up to a week; once opened, you should enjoy it in one sitting

KEG STANDS

Columbus markets, bars and restaurants that sell and refill beer growlers Barley's Brewing Company Ale House No. 1 467 N. High St., Short North 614-228-2537 barleysbrewing.com The Barrel and Bottle 59 Spruce St., North Market 614-221-5550 northmarket.com House Wine 644 High St., Worthington 614-846-9463 housewine.biz Park Street Tavern 501 Park St., Arena District 614-221-4099 parkstreettavern.com Studio 35 Cinema 3055 Indianola Ave., Clintonville 614-261-1581 studio35.com Whole Foods Market 1649 W. Lane Ave., Upper Arlington; 614-481-3400 wholefoodsmarket.com BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse 1414 Polaris Pkwy., Polaris 614-885-1800 bjsbrewhouse.com Columbus Brewing Company 525 Short St., Brewery District 614-464-2739 columbusbrewingco.com Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus 161 N. High St., Downtown 614-228-0500 elevatorbrewing.com Barley's Smokehouse and Brewpub 1130 Dublin Rd., Grandview 614-485-0227 barleysbrewing.com Gordon Biersch Brewery 401 N. Front St., Arena District 614-246-2900 gordonbiersch.com

Photo by Jodi Miller