In one of the novels I read as a long-ago English major (I think it was D. H. Lawrence`s SONS AND LOVERS), a young boy takes a bucket to the local tavern to get beer for his father. At the time I read the book, this seemed like an unusual way to bring home beer. All we had were standard brown bottles.

Things have changed since the early 1960s, the most important change being the wide-spread introduction of can. They were lighter, easier to store in the fridge, and, in places where there wasn`t a deposit for returned empties, litterbugs could throw them out of car windows without having them shatter.

Later in the 20th century, as the microbrewing movement has grown, there`s been a new form of packaging: the growler — a 64 ounce, refillable glass jug. You could take your empty to your favorite local brewpub or microbrewery tap room and have it filled with deliciously fresh beer. And when you got it home, you could, like the boy in the novel, give some to your father; but you had to be of legal age to buy it and bring it home.

Growlers have become increasingly popular as the number of craft breweries and brewpubs has grown. In Albuquerque, NM, where I spend the winter months, there are a dozen brewpubs and tap rooms. It`s become a Friday afternoon ritual for me to visit one of them and bring home a growler full of something new and different for us to enjoy as we sit in front of an open fire and enjoy homemade snacks or pizza.

Today, I learned about a new way to bring home the beer.

Earlier this afternoon, I headed to Tractor Brewing`s tap room in Knob Hill, an area close to the University of New Mexico and my winter home. I had a particular beer in mind, but when I got there, it wasn`t currently on tap. I stood, holding my growler, studying the chalk board which listed what was available. Everything looked interesting.

“What will you have?” the bartender asked. And when I explained my uncertainty, she suggested a remedy. She told me that Tractor’s tap room had recently adopted a new form of packaging which would help me overcome my difficulty. As part of the $35 membership in “The Farmers’ Co-op” (their mug club), I would receive a set of four 16 ounce mason jars and have each of them filled (for free) with a different style of beer.  The set of four glasses could be refilled (for a fee) as often as I wished.

“I got the idea from homebrewers,” Tap Room General Manager Skye Devore explained. “When they go to their meetings, they often bring samples of their own beers in mason jars. I didn’t like taking growlers home; they were too big for just one person and, besides, my husband and I don’t like the same beers. Mason jars are just the right size for one person; when the jars are sealed the beer stays fresher than in growlers; and you can bring home different types of beer. And, the jar is a glass.”

I took home four Tractor styles I hadn’t tried before: Double Plough Oatmeal Stout, Buck Eyed Pale Ale, Adebisi (named after Skye’s dog) Black Lager, and Tractober Fest.

The four pack mason jar setup is a great idea. They’ll only refill a set of four, but before the snow melts and I return to the north, I’ll probably have them refilled a few times.And, if I decide to give up the pleasure of beer and take up canning the produce of my daughter`s garden, I`ll have a headstart on the equipment.

Tractor Brewing`s tap room is located at Central Avenue and Tulane Boulevard (behind Starbucks) in Albuquerque. The brewery`s website is  www.getplowed.com.

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