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The Sassy Lass: Growlers, Toilet Mechanics & that Damned ABQ Wind

The Sassy Lass: Growlers, Toilet Mechanics & that Damned ABQ Wind

Curious as to why your beer comes in a "growler"? Or why your toilet growls when you flush? And why do those spring winds torment us Burqueños?


Greetings and salutations! This is The Sassy Lass, your friendly neighborhood brainiac. Join me now as I do my best to answer your latest head-scratchingly odd “What if?” wonderings.

Dear Sassy Lass: Why do they call it a “growler” of beer?

A ferociously good question, Thinkin’ Drinker! Ever see a friend carrying a fat-bellied glass bottle into a bar and think, “Is she headed onstage to play jug in a hillbilly band?”

While it’s not impossible (especially in the South), it’s more likely that your friend is taking that bottle, also known as a growler, to be refilled with her favorite brewski.

Growlers weren’t always bottles. Draft beer was originally transported from the bar in a steel pail. The lids were not airtight, so when the full pails were being carried home, the sloshing would cause the carbonated beer to release CO2, which produced a rumbling growl.

The term “growler” first got the attention of the press in the 1880s, with an article from the June 20, 1883, edition of New Jersey’s Trenton Times claiming that “It is called the growler because it provokes so much trouble in the scramble after beer.”

Back in the day, before anti-drinking workplace policies and child protective services, working-class kids would fill pails of freshly poured draft beer at the local pub, then “rush the growlers” down to Daddy’s job site so he could have a cold one on his lunch break.

It’s believed that the glass bottle growler was revived in 1989 by Wyoming micro-brewer Charlie Otto. These days, eco-friendly tipplers prefer reusing their growlers to save money and to cut down on the amount of cans and bottles going to the dump.

Dear Sassy Lass: Toilets used to create a quiet swirl of water and waste, then voila! All gone. Now, the quest for water savings has made them exceedingly loud. What makes these new toilets more powerful — and more noisy?

What a fitting follow-up to a question about beer consumption, Waste Wonk. Where else do we end up visiting after a drink than the loo? But if the commode in the loo has a pressure-assisted flushing system, its flush might startle you enough to make you need another drink.

The original toilet design relies on gravity to flush. When you flush, a lever in the tank is pulled, and a plug opens. That allows water to flow out to fill the toilet bowl. When that’s full enough, gravity makes the water and waste flow out through a curvy bend in the pipe called an S-trap.

Here’s the issue: despite how much we (ab)use it, fresh water is a finite resource. Since it’s in short supply, and since gravity toilets can use up to 7 gallons of water in one flush, something needed to be done to slow the flow of H2O. Water conservation legislation was passed by Congress in 1992. It required that all toilets sold in the United States use 1.6 gallons of water or less per flush (gpf).

Thus, the roaring flush of the pressure-assisted toilet was born. Residential pressure-assisted toilets don’t really look any different from the gravity commodes; the pressure system is hidden in the tank. It’s when you flush that you really hear the difference. A pressure-assisted toilet uses a burst of compressed air to force water through the bowl at a velocity higher than gravity flow – and with great suction comes a great cacophony.

Dear Sassy Lass: Why is it so damned windy here in Albuquerque? You can’t get past noon on a mild or warm day without having to face down a howling wind.

As someone who spends each year sniffling and wheezing her way through these allergen-laden winds, I can attest to how blustery it gets in Burque come April and May – especially in the afternoons. In fact, Albuquerque’s average wind speed in May is 10 mph, with calm conditions occurring just 6 percent of the time. So why does spring in the 505 blow so hard (pun intended)? Atmosphere and temperature.

The strongest winds aloft are associated with the jet stream. In springtime, the jet stream transitions from its southerly displacement back to higher latitudes, but it still often hangs around our neck of the woods. Because spring also has more hours of daylight, surface heating increases.

Heated surface air rises and is replaced by air from higher levels, which has stronger wind speeds. The higher the sun sits in the sky, the higher the wind speeds. As the sun goes down, the surface cools, the atmosphere becomes more stable, and wind speeds slow down.

Thanks to Deirdre Kann, science and operations officer with the Albuquerque office of the National Weather Service, for her gracious assistance with this question.

Got Qs? The Sassy Lass might have some As! Send your questions to thesassylass@freeabq.com today. Your question could be next.

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M. Brianna Stallings makes words work.

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Johnny Vizcaino is an editorial intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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