Here’s a story handed down three generations in my family. One of my grandmothers, an immigrant from Leeds, spent her dotage in our giant family brownstone in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. Every night, she would send one of her grandchildren down to the corner bar with a pail and a few coins for beer. She (or they—in her defense, she might have had help) drank a pail of locally brewed beer every night, but when takeout tap beer disappeared, my grandmother stopped drinking. Why? My grandmother insisted that beer in bottles and cans didn’t taste “fresh.”
Cue today’s jug-toting, urban rednecks walking the streets with their “growlers,” the half-gallon jugs they refill with craft beer at local restaurants, breweries, and bars (and the Ardsley DeCicco’s). The thing that’s so odd about growlers—and what separates them from the old 60-ounce pitchers—is that, like my grandmother’s pail, one owns the growler outright, and can cap it and walk away with the unfinished beer. This contrasts with the unconsumed portion of wine left after a restaurant meal, which (in order to comply with the law, as if many restaurants bother) must be carefully re-sealed, and further sealed into a bag before you can leave the restaurant with it. Plus, with growlers, you can fill up your jug at a restaurant tap, pay, and leave without eating. This would be illegal to do with wine or liquor at restaurants: they’re strictly licensed for on-premise consumption.
As if that weren’t weird enough, the math behind growlers is screwy, so this week’s EDP is devoted to Growler Math.
Growlers vs. Pints at Restaurants
Sixteen-ounce pints of beer commonly cost around $6 or $7, yet a 64-ounce growler might cost less than you’d pay for two pints (plus, you get a cool jug). At Polpettina, for instance, a pint of Captain Lawrence Kolsch will go you $6, but, if you bring your own growler, you can get a half-gallon for $9 (that’s $12 if you buy the jug). But Polpettina’s cheap Kolsch is not a loss leader: a 15.5-gallon keg of the Kolsch (yielding 31 growlers) can be bought from Scott Vaccaro at Captain Lawrence for $135 (bars and restaurants get it even cheaper). Sold at $9 per growler, Polpettina will earn at least $279, $144 in profit, but, for a restaurant, Polpettina’s margin is unusually low. At Polpettina, growlers run about 1.5 times the cost of a pint—which is lower than, but consistent with, what you might pay at DeCicco’s or Captain Lawrence Brewery (see below).
But at Birdsall House, growler math works differently. Some beers (generally with higher APV –that’s Alcohol Per Volume**) are sold in 12-ounce, tulip-shaped “bell” glasses, and these might cost $6, $6.50, or $7 (with growlers of these beers at $26, $29, or $32). At Birdsall, pints cost $6, $6.50, or $7 (with growlers at $20, $22, or $24)—but with both 12-ounce and pint pours, the extended growler price = 3.333 x cost of a single serving, at the very least. But what Birdsall offers—that Polpettina doesn’t—is the choice of 20, many esoteric, beers on tap. You pay for that option.
Growlers vs. Bottles and Cans at DeCicco’s
But growler beer is not especially cheaper than many cans or six-packs of beer. Take each of Sixpoint’s trendy pint cans (there are four types available) that retail for $9.99 per four-pack and amount to the same volume of beer in a Sixpoint growler, retailing for $12.99 at DeCicco’s. But those large-format, 25-ounce bottles of Captain Lawrence Limone Luppolo (a collaboration that Vaccaro did with the beer-obsessed DeCicco’s) will run you $9.99 at DeCicco’s– $1 less than you’d pay for the 64-ounce growler. Of course, on the growler, you won’t get the cool label.
Growlers at the Brewery
At Captain Lawrence, you’ll be paying between $9.50 and $10.50 for any of the five CL beers available at any time for growler fills. Sure, it’s $0.50 to $1.50 more than you’ll pay at Polpettina, BUT you get to pick from five beers and you’ll actually get face time with the brewers and a bit of an education.
Growlers are the Wild West of math. You can get dirt-cheap growlers at Polpettina (but you only get three choices—and one currently contains blueberries). You can pick from 20 esoteric beers at Birdsall, but you will have to pay for all the variety. DeCicco’s is great: its 12 taps offer good value and variety, but growler fills at the Captain Lawrence Brewery are cool, too. You can choose from five of CL’s beers, plus you’ll get a free education from the brewers.
** There is no hard and fast rule about APV and price: often, higher APV beers cost more, but not always.
Off with their heads! No seriously…they chopped off people’s heads. And paraded the heads around on pikes. And considered themselves all modern and scientific because they’d invented the guillotine, which was so much more humane than that guy with the dull ax hacking away as best he could. Anyway…let’s party!
Bistro Rollin’s Bastille Day
July 14h, 6:30 pm
$55 per person
Live music and a five-course menu are offered in either vegetarian or carnivorous eating styles. Wine is included, menu highlights include shellfish bisque with lobster and shrimp; stuffed tomato with deconstructed ratatouille of eggplant, zucchini, and goat cheese cream; sake-steamed red snapper with jasmine rice and a ginger-soy beurre blanc; and crispy pork belly with cipollini onions and pork jus. Try not to think about heads on pikes while eating.
Bastille Day at Le Château
According to the site, “Cynthia M will sing and play la Musique Francaise d’Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Josephine Baker, Charles Trenet, Jacques Brel, Jean Sablon and more!” Look for a Gallic à la carte menu.
Bastille Day at La Panetière
$72 per person; $110 with wine pairings
Not surprisingly, La Panetière’s announcement does not stress the decapitation thing. From the site, “July 14, 1789, La Bastille, a political prison, fell, symbolizing the end of monarchy (for a while). With very scarce food, Parisians fraternized together by improvising “civic“ dinners. Tables were in all the streets where blue, white, and red garlands were a must. The rich brought their roasts and expensive wines while the poor brought their stews and cheeses as the accordion sounds invited the crowd to dance. “All for today as tomorrow is unpredictable.” Look for a seven-course menu, detailed here.
Grilled Figs at Farmhouse at Bedford Post
Imagine fat, fresh, figs roasted on a wood fire until their honeyed, interior filaments are permeated with rustic, smoky flavor. While they’re still warm, Chef Jeremy McMillan sprinkles the figs with sea salt, drizzles them with syrupy aged balsamic and a fine scattering of shaved Sicilian Noto almonds. The result tastes like something you’d find in some remote Italian slow food temple—we’re so lucky that you can also taste them right here in Bedford.