Growlers vs Crowlers vs Bombers—What’s The Difference?

by Dane Wilson | Last Updated: March 18, 2021
Growlers vs Crowlers vs Bombers_Sound Brewery

When you visit a craft brewery or store, you might see a diverse range of bottle sizes. Each one has a name. Crowlers, growlers, and bombers line the shelves alongside normal cans and bottles. If you don’t know the differences between crowlers vs growlers vs bombers, your eyes might start crossing. Which do you choose? How much beer are you getting? So many questions!

We’ve been there, too. That’s why we’re going to explain how crowlers, growlers, and bombers differ from one another.

What is a Growler?

Here’s some trivia for your next bingo night: in the 1800s, when people were carrying their beer back from pubs in metal pails, it made a distinct sound. Carbon dioxide would create a rumble or a growl as the beer sloshed around.

Think of a growler as the take out container for pubs and breweries. Growlers are large 1.89L/64oz jugs. Glass growlers are common, but breweries also use stainless steel, plastic, and ceramic. You can also refill a growler once its been drained of beer, making it a sustainable option.

In case you haven’t done the arithmetic, that 1.89L of beer is a little less than a six pack.

Can Growlers Be Used to Store Beer?

While growlers hold a decent amount of beer, it is not meant for long term storage. As long as the growler remains sealed tight and chilled, the beer can last about a week. If you open the growler, you have about 36 hours before the beer loses all its fizz.

What is a Crowler?

Sometimes, a crowler is called a “can growler” and holds 32 ounces (946ml) of draft or craft beer. Crowlers cannot be refilled like growlers, because they are made from aluminum. This is actually a benefit. Aluminum is recyclable. You don’t have to worry about cleaning a glass jug and accidentally leaving behind residue that messes with the flavor of your next purchase.

Unlike growlers, crowlers are also more suited to storing beer. When refrigerated, an unopened crowler will keep beer fresh for about a month. That said, you should aim to drink your beer within two weeks of the packaging date. It will taste better. As soon as you open a crowler, drink up! Like regular aluminum cans, the beer will go bad shortly after its exposed to air.

And What’s The Deal With Howlers?

Growlers vs Crowlers vs Bombers_Sound Brewery

We’re pitting crowler vs growler against each other, but we thought it proper to mention a smaller version of a growler. Sometimes referred to as a beer bullet or baby growler, a “howler” is about half the size of a normal growler and holds 946ml/32oz of beer.

Yes, that means that a howler is the same volume as a crowler. The difference is that a crowler comes in a can, and a howler is made of glass.

So, in case you hear it in conversation or see it while shopping, anything labeled a half growler, growlette, howler, or bullet is the name of the 946ml glass jug for transporting beer.

What About Beer Bombers?

Bombers are 650ml/22oz, or the equivalent to two 355ml beer bottles. So, you can think of a bomber as a glass bottle crowler.

Some craft beer lovers will tell you that they prefer crowlers over bombers, even though the volume is the same. Breweries, however, tend to favor bombers over other forms of packaging. Using a bomber means the brewery can sell fewer units of a special beer, adding to the supply of a limited release. Since bombers are more expensive than smaller bottles, breweries can increase their profits.

The downside of bombers? Aluminum cans are far more portable than glass bottles, and they protect beer from sun exposure. That makes crowlers the best for keeping larger quantities of beer around for longer.

Crowler vs Growler vs Bomber: Which Should You Choose?

Since the early 2000s, the popularity of crowlers has risen while bombers and growlers are seen far less. Aficionados continue to dispute the pros and cons of storing beer in amber-colored bottles and metal cans, but the advantages of a crowler are undeniable. Simply put, crowlers are far more convenient.

As mentioned, crowlers come in lightweight cans, cutting down on shipping costs for breweries. The beer stays fresh, which isn’t the case for shipping in a glass growler. This also means you can pick up several crowlers for less than a growler from the store, rather than having to worry about carrying around a heavy jug.

Quality

One thing we cannot emphasize enough is how the packaging can impact the quality of the beer. Keeping beer tasting like it’s fresh from the tap is a challenge for breweries everywhere. When packaged beer sits for weeks or months on the shelves, the quality diminishes. The same happens when you open and close a growler of beer at a party. The beer rapidly oxidizes.

The difference in the quality of beer between crowlers vs growlers is remarkable. Though dark brown glass growlers can insulate beer better, light can still pass through. Eventually, that light leads to skunked beer. The screw top used to seal a growler is also far less airtight than the tab on a crowler. And all that added air messes with the balance of the beer. Not good.

Growlers are an excellent choice when you’re throwing a party and have somewhere to keep the container cool and away from sunlight. You can polish off that jug of beer easily with a couple of friends. Conversely, Crowlers are great when you want to pick up several types of beer from the brewery and drink them by yourself at your leisure.

Final Thoughts on Crowler vs Growler vs Bomber

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Growlers, bombers, and crowlers are all made to transport beer safely. Lately, crowlers are everywhere you go. They line the shelves at the store and local breweries, and even craft beer pubs and bars are selling them. Meanwhile, growlers and bombers have become less common, though neither option is going to vanish any time soon.

Regardless of which you prefer, it is great that there are options available for purchasing beer and bringing it home.