Crowler 101: What is a Crowler?

What is a Crowler?


When it comes to enjoying craft beer, the options for packaging and storage have expanded far beyond the traditional glass bottle or aluminum container. The Crowler — a 32-ounce, resealable aluminum can — marries the convenience of a conventional can with the advantages of a growler, which have long been a mainstay in breweries' offerings. 

Growlers are refillable containers typically holding 64 ounces of beer and have been popular among brewery visitors and craft beer enthusiasts for years. Traditionally made of glass, growlers look more like large jugs than standard beer bottles. In addition to the full-sized growler, some companies offer smaller, 32-ounce versions called howlers, which are a more convenient option for customers who prefer a smaller quantity of beer.

However, growlers aren’t without their drawbacks. They’re prone to poor sealing, which results in flat beer when opened. Additionally, at 64 ounces, growlers take up significant space in a refrigerator, and the potential for a shattered mess if dropped adds to their disadvantages.

Enter the Crowler. Unlike traditional growlers, Crowlers have an airtight, spill-proof seal that keeps carbonation in and UV light out, thereby preserving the flavor and freshness of any beer. In terms of packaging and labeling, Crowlers are an exceptional platform for brewers to display their creativity and engage with customers. The generous surface area of these cans gives breweries a prime opportunity to highlight their dedication to quality through detailed label designs. These advanced labels can encapsulate the beer's spirit and the brand's unique identity, making each Crowler a vessel for the beer as well as a piece of art and brand storytelling. 

Labels & Packaging: Craft Beer’s Secret Weapon for Boosting Sales

In a market saturated with options, eye-catching and informative labels can significantly improve the chances of driving consumer attention and purchases. The label and packaging work as the first point of contact between the consumer and the beer container itself, often conveying a brand's unique selling points and the unique style and flavor profile of its beer offerings.

Pressure-sensitive labels and shrink sleeves are some of the different label options available to craft beer brands. While shrink sleeves deliver comprehensive 360-degree coverage for optimal branding, pressure sensitive labels offer flexibility by adapting to different container shapes. Each label type has advantages that can cater to the specific needs of breweries and consumers.

A well-crafted label not only grabs attention on the shelf but also delivers crucial information like the type of beer, its ABV (alcohol by volume), and tasting notes. Beyond aesthetics, the packaging plays a vital role in maintaining the beer's quality by shielding it from light and oxygen, which can spoil the flavor. This is especially important for Crowlers that are designed to keep beers fresh while showcasing their artisanal qualities.

Ultimately, thoughtful labels and packaging can build brand loyalty, encourage repeat purchases, and help craft beer stand out in the crowded market. Investing in high-quality, distinctive labels can create an emotional connection with consumers, making them more likely to choose your beer over a competitor's.

Are Crowlers New?

The first crowlers can be traced back to Denver, Colorado and a genius partnership between Oskar Blues Brewery and  Ball Corporation as a creative solution to the “we want to take more beer home” customer dilemma. Oskar Blues was the first craft brewery in the country to begin canning their beers back in 2002 resulting in a recyclable vessel that kept UV rays and air out, and they were the first to offer crowlers in 2015. Word spread, equipment needs were shared, and the rest is history. 600+ breweries now offer crowlers!

What is a Crowler?

As mentioned, Crowlers provide the perfect volume for sharing with friends or savoring over a more extended period without compromising a beer's freshness. The size of a Crowler is particularly advantageous as it lets beer lovers enjoy a generous amount of their favorite brew while fitting comfortably in most refrigerators. Additionally, the single-use nature of Crowlers means there is no need to worry about storage once the beer has been consumed—customers can simply recycle the can. For those who want to savor their beer exactly as the brewer intended, the 32-ounce Crowler offers the perfect balance of convenience and generous serving size.  

Crowlers are also an excellent medium for highlighting a brewery's unique offerings, like specialty beers, seasonal varieties, or limited editions. Crowler cans can embody the brewery's artistry and innovation, allowing patrons to enjoy a slice of the taproom ambiance at home. The popularity of Crowlers has soared among small-batch brewers and craft beer aficionados who appreciate the distinctiveness of each beer. Moreover, the Crowler's larger surface area provides ample room for visually striking branding, allowing breweries to narrate a story or express the beer's character through impressive labeling.

Let’s break down the Crowler’s main benefits:

  • UV Protection: Sunlight is a beer's worst enemy. Crowlers are made from solid aluminum that reflects UV rays, ensuring your beer is safe from light exposure, which can alter its taste.
  • Lasting Freshness: No more worrying about flat beer. Crowlers keep your beer fresh for longer by blocking out light and maintaining carbonation. Your beer will be just as delicious when you are ready to drink it.
  • Convenience: Enjoy the fun of watching your bartender fill a Crowler with your favorite brew, minus the hassles of glass breakage, flat beer, or cleaning. Crowlers are filled fresh to order, easy to transport, and ready to enjoy at your convenience.
  • Eco-friendly: As the craft beer industry continues to grow, sustainability has become a top priority for many breweries. Made from recyclable aluminum, Crowlers are an eco-friendly option for consumers and provide brewers with a sustainable packaging solution. 

Crafting the Perfect Crowler Labels

Ensuring your can labels achieve a stunning look every time is critical, and having the right equipment is fundamental to this process. There are two main methods for pre-labeling your Crowlers to allow for quick filling on demand. While you might consider keeping blank cans available and labeling them as orders come in, this method can lead to issues with adhesive performance and a less polished appearance, not to mention the additional labor required. By prioritizing professionally labeled cans, you can consistently showcase your brand in the best possible light.

Alpha Brewing Operations: Pack Leader Auto Labeler

Crowler Labeling Options

Pressure-Sensitive Labels

One of the most straightforward methods for labeling your Crowlers is by using pressure sensitive labels. These labels can be applied efficiently using a semi-automatic labeling machine, enabling you to process a batch of cans quickly and have a stockpile ready for customers eager to take craft beers home. The advantage of pressure sensitive labels lies in their versatility; they can be produced in any size, making it simple to scale up your design to cover the entire can. Additionally, the labeling machine ensures that each label is affixed neatly and smoothly, eliminating the risk of unsightly adhesive problems and maintaining a professional appearance for your product.

Shrink Sleeve Labels

Shrink labeling is a perfect fit for Crowlers for several reasons. First, shrink labels allow breweries to utilize the entire surface of the beer container, wrapping it from top to bottom and all around. This 360-degree coverage maximizes the space available for branding, creating a uniform and visually appealing presentation. Second, shrink labels conform to the contours of the can seamlessly, extending up to the very top cap. This ensures a consistent and polished look, enhancing both the aesthetic appeal and the marketability of the Crowlers.

Additionally, by filling Crowlers directly from the tap, customers are guaranteed to get the freshest beer possible. That said, it's crucial to use a technique like shrink labeling that can resist moisture and abrasion. When shrink wrapped, the Crowler label remains intact, legible, and free from tears or discoloration, even when the foam from the beer spills over and trickles down the sides of the container before capping.

 Steps to Offering Crowlers

  1. Assess Can Supplier Capabilities: Start by confirming whether your current supplier can provide Crowler-size cans. This is a crucial step to ensure a steady supply of raw materials tailored to your needs.
  2. Understand Regulatory Requirements: Familiarize yourself with state and local regulations concerning the repackaging of tap beer. Compliance is key to avoiding legal pitfalls and ensuring your operations run smoothly.
  3. Upgrade Your Canning Equipment: If you haven't already, consider upgrading your canning equipment to handle larger Crowler cans. This investment is necessary to ensure efficient and consistent production.
  4. Revise Label Designs: Once your production process is aligned, focus on reworking your label designs for the larger Crowler cans. This step is vital to maintaining brand consistency and visual appeal.
  5. Partner with Expert Label Printers: If you’re not already collaborating with an exceptional label printer, now is the time to find one. At Pack Leader USA, our expert team can connect you with label suppliers who understand the intricacies of designing labels for maximum performance and efficiency.

Get Started With Better Packaging Options for Your Brewery Today

Crowlers are gaining popularity at an impressive rate. Customers love them for their airtight seal and ability to maintain carbonation and preserve freshness. Plus, they're fully recyclable, which satisfies the eco-friendly consumer. On the exterior, they also offer a vast amount of real estate for label placement, which affords breweries the ability to display their brand three times as large as they would on a regular beer can. A well-designed label can serve as the perfect reminder for customers to make recurring purchases and, through shrink labeling, Crowlers are a superior solution, providing the best results for striking and memorable branding.

We've put together a comprehensive guide to labeling that should help answer all of your more detailed label questions. It was created to help guide you through the label creation and equipment purchasing process, and gives more in depth information than a blog post is capable of. 

Download the guide for free, and remember that our team is passionate about helping you along the way! We look forward to assisting you throughout the journey. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions!

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