This Week in Craft Beer

What's In Your Growler?

Most serious beer lovers will agree that beer is the same whether it comes from a bottle, can or keg, but it's hard to deny that there's something special about fresh-from-the-tap beer. Served properly through clean lines, kegged beer is often a brewer's best chance for showcasing a beer's personality through his ability to minimize the many variables that can harm beer after packaging. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to get the whole gang down to the local watering hole for a pint of fresh ale, which is where the beloved growler comes into play.

These sealable vessels have played a role in the story of beer for well over a century by letting drinkers take draught beer home and dispense servings to their liking. Usually made of glass or metal, growlers can be filled from almost any tap and are a staple of the modern craft beer taproom in an age when new, smaller breweries sell most of their beer straight from the source.

With the remaining days of 2014 packed with parties and gatherings, here are my top three Tucson beers worth "growlering" before hosting or heading to your next holiday celebration.

Dragoon "Unihopper" Pale Ale (Nelson Sauvin Edition)

Most Arizona beer drinkers are familiar with the aggressively hopped Dragoon IPA, but have you tried its little brother, the Unihopper? A single-hop pale ale showcasing a new hop variety in every batch, this sessionable and hop-forward ale is perfect for occasions when you want to keep your wits about you through the night without sacrificing flavor. The latest iteration features the renowned Nelson Sauvin hop, a unique variety from New Zealand know for peppery spiciness, white-wine like fruitiness and an aroma reminiscent of crushed gooseberry. Find it in the newly expanded Dragoon taproom alongside the flagship Stronghold Session, palate-shredding seasonal Ryelander imperial rye IPA and tart and refreshing Öhaygrrl gose.

Pueblo Vida Coffee- Infused Brown Ale

Take your average brown ale—medium-bodied, toasty and mildly sweet with just enough alcohol to give it some personality—and add El Salvador Honey Process coffee beans known for their sweet fruit aroma and earthy finish and you have the Pueblo Vida Coffee-Infused Brown Ale. This style is normally already quite accessible for most palates, and with the added layer of fruity sweetness brought on by the coffee, you'll have the whole party buzzing about this limited-availability local ale in no time. Pueblo Vida's well-received Northwest IPA is also back in the taproom, which along with the seasonally appropriate Fest Ale will ensure virtually every style of beer drinker can find a beer to take home from this new downtown Tucson brewery.

Ten Fifty-Five/Flux Brewing "East Side of the River" Oatmeal Pale

Tucson beer geeks should get excited for this collaboration brew from Ten Fifty-Five and forthcoming Tucson brewery Flux Brewing Company. With a recipe conceived by Flux founder and brewmaster Michael Figueira and brought to commercial scale by Ten Fifty-Five head brewer John Paul Vyborny, East Side of the River was inspired by Flux co-founder Andy Schlicker's first beer-soaked trip to Portland, where he encountered numerous breweries east of the Willamette River pouring oatmeal-laden ales in their taprooms. A milestone on Flux's journey toward opening, this refreshing and accessible collaboration pale ale is a true symbol of the camaraderie and vision of Tucson's rapidly growing beer industry. Find it in Ten Fifty-Five's taproom, where you can buy a double-walled steel growler that comes with a free fill and discounted future fills!

Though ultimately just a tiny sampling of the spectrum of local beers available in Tucson, these craft beers personify the remarkable evolution happening within our community and the greater Arizona beer scene. Without the help of growlers to bring them into the comfort of our homes, many would miss out on the sensory adventures they offer, making them the ideal local brews to share with friends and family as an extraordinary year for beer comes to a close in the Old Pueblo.