I am a cross-drinker – an equal opportunist when it comes to alcoholic beverages. I love wine. I love bourbon. Oh man, I freaking LOVE craft beer. What I’m drinking depends on my mood, the season, who I’m with, how bad my day was, what I’m eating, whether the Yankees won, or perhaps most importantly, what I can afford.
Now that my disposable income-sucking kiddo has joined the family, my taste has tended more toward the affordable gems than the rare, high-ticket bottles I once enjoyed during my split-second, DINK phase. For a few fitskies, I can get a four or six-pack of 12 oz. craft brews perfect for after-work sipping, or paired with my favorite manchego. THAT is the true beauty of craft beer. I think I have personally kept Sierra Nevada, Bell’s and Dogfish Head in the black over the past decade.
Over the past few days, there has been an uproar in the beer community over an article published in The New York Times, entitled “Craft Beer’s Larger Aspirations Cause a Stir.” The author, largely a spirits writer, makes an observation about the rise in large format beers from “high-profile brewers,” namely the “22-ounce ‘bombers,’ 750-milliliter wine bottles, even three-liter jeroboams.” This trend is something he refers to as the “wine-ification” of beer, or craft beers attempt to be as fancy as wine, so that typical wine drinkers might instead pair one of these large format bottles with their porterhouse.
The controversy comes in claiming beer is trying to be more like wine by being paired with good food and stored in large, shareable bottles. The challenge with this statement is two-fold: (1) Craft beer lovers don’t believe beer is trying, or should try to be anything but itself, as a high-quality, shareable, food-pairable product in its own right. (2) Beer has a long history, in fact, of large bottle formats, and only trended toward the typical six-pack format after prohibition when large brewers invested in these bottling lines because a six pack fit more neatly into the newly popular refrigerator.
The author questions whether large format beers turn customers off, because as he puts it, they are “too expensive and, thanks to their typically higher alcohol content, a challenge to finish in one sitting.” He also points out that the big bottle format is “particularly troublesome for merchants and restaurateurs, who say it can be hard to persuade customers to commit to these big, boozy beers.”
My two cents: if craft beer shops found it difficult to move these larger format bottles, you wouldn’t see “shelf after shelf taken over by giants.” Anyone who has trouble finishing this format bottle on their own can share with a friend, or find plenty of selection in the smaller, 12-oz format to keep them satisfied, as this is still the great majority. Besides, who has trouble finishing what equates to two pints of beer, even if it is a little higher in alcohol? Not most beer lovers I know, and certainly not this equal opportunist, craft beer lover.
Photos courtesy of Beer and Whiskey Brothers and Brookstone Beer Bulletin.