Note: Our writer received a complimentary product for review. Opinions are his own.
Steampunk. That was my first thought when I opened the box GrowlerWerks sent me. In it was a review sample of their uKeg pressurized growler.
If you’re not familiar with the term “steampunk,” Merriam-Webster defines it as “science fiction dealing with 19th-century societies dominated by historical or imagined steam-powered technology.” The uKeg, with its stainless steel, brass tubing and pressure gauge, really looks the part. I have to admit that I felt a little self-conscious when I took it to my local brewery for its maiden voyage. It’s an attention grabber for sure, and I’m not much of a gadget guy. I wasn’t in the place 30 seconds before my brand new uKeg sparked a conversation. I even picked up a new Untappd friend as a result!
Time for a Test Drive
Alright, so it looks cool and will impress your friends, but, does it, um, Werk? The concept is pretty simple: it’s all in the cap. You just set the pressure dial to Off, unscrew the CO2 cartridge compartment and load the food grade cartridge. Once it’s screwed back on, you’re ready to go. After the growler is filled you just turn the dial until the pressure gauge reads the correct psi—there are different recommended settings for different beer styles. Easy!
I did, however, find a way to muck things up. Upon getting my new contraption home from its first fill, I immediately pulled the little tap handle and was rewarded with a beautiful pint of fresh Last Wave Brewing (my local) Golden Hour IPA. Then I did something I’d never do with a glass growler. I put it in the fridge to re-sample the beer the following day. To my great disappointment, just 24 hours later, the beer poured flat.
The Pressure’s On—or Is It?
The steampunk pressure gauge told the story. I hadn’t dialed up the pressure to compensate for the missing liquid. Rookie mistake. Once I’d added CO2, I found that it actually re-carbonated the beer and I was again rewarded with a pleasant, lively pint. Now, with a half growler left, I stuck it back in the fridge on Sunday afternoon to see if it could deliver a credible Friday-after-work beer. Yes, I paid attention to the pressure gauge this time. (The uKeg is really well insulated so it didn’t need to go into the refrigerator right away, although I’m sure it wouldn’t have stayed cold for five days!)
I had picked an IPA for this test for a reason. They’re delicate. Direct sunlight can turn all of those floral hops into a skunky mess in 15 minutes. The stainless steel thwarts that threat but oxidation can wreak havoc, too. As the week churned to a close, I hoped for the best and prepared for the worst. I picked up a backup six pack just in case.
The first pour came out with a nice frothy head. The bubbles were a bit big and dissipated a little faster than when it was fresh from the brewery. Not a big deal. What floored me was how fresh the beer still tasted. Over years of glass growlers you get programmed to expect mediocrity once you crack the cap. I was genuinely impressed by how well uKeg performed. It’s kind of a game changer.
It’s liberating to be able to buy a growler of beer and not feel the pressure (see what I did there?) of having to drink it in one sitting. If you’re into the new sport of beer tourism, uKeg is like Samsonite luggage! Oh, it’s not cheap ($149 retail) and you have to keep buying CO2 cartridges (one for each fill and just over a buck each), but if you’re into craft beer, it’s a great investment.
Go ahead and get 64 ounces of that 12% ABV imperial barrel-aged whatever. You can drink it 10 ounces at a time if you want. You set the pace—the growler does not.