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Your Beermonger: The Growing Package Market

by Nick Anderson — April 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm 720 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

Something caught my eye on Craft Brewing Business this week; ALeco’s new ‘Evolution’ aluminum bottles, designed for craft beverage producers. Evolution bottles will initially be offered in 12oz short- and long-neck sizes, along with a 16-ounce “pint” bottle, with the potential for more versions down the line (750 mL, 330 mL, 22 oz, and 40 oz).

What interests me, and probably craft brewers who to this point have avoided canning, is that the Evolution bottles can be filled and capped by existing glass bottling lines — an attractive prospect for those curious about canning but unable to afford installing a dedicated canning line or without access to one of the mobile canning services that cater to craft brewers.

With the benefits of aluminum cans (light resistance, quicker cooling, lighter weight, greater percentage of recycled materials used) possible without the additional costs of an extra production line, the Evolution bottle could become a commonplace sight in retail stores and bars very soon. But the Evolution bottle didn’t get me thinking about the benefits of one type of package over another — it just got me thinking about packages in general.

I’ll give you a moment to start developing your jokes.

I hear and read a lot of talk about breweries rolling out new types of packages out on the market–whether one type is better than another, or if a brewery is chasing the “trend” of canning, or if a beer presents itself better in a larger format versus a smaller one. What I want to talk about this week is what your favorite beer formats are, and if there is any reason you prefer one over another.

The 12-ounce bottle is the standard; what you see in your head when you think of grabbing a beer. The 12-ounce bottle is classic, and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Cans have obviously become extremely popular over the last 10-15 years; CraftCans.com (yes this exists and it’s wonderful shut up) has a database of nearly 1,900 canned beers, over 1,400 of which are currently in production.

As canned craft beers grow in number and popularity, I’ve found that many of my favorite “go-to” beers are canned, and the convenient size of the 12-oounce can is a plus for me both at home and in Arrowine’s beer department. Personally, I’m a fan of 16oz “tallboy” can. The pint glass is ubiquitous for a reason — it’s a perfect amount of beer; enough to satisfy, not too much that you get bored or have your beer warm up more than you might like. Also, “tallboy” is fun to say. Cans in general have a sense of whimsy about them; they somehow just seem to dispel some of the over-seriousness that creeps into every nook and cranny of craft beer.

The 22-ounce “bomber” bottle is, for me, the silhouette of the American Craft Beer movement. So many of us are introduced to craft beer through these brews that are stronger, hoppier, and more boldly flavored than anything we might have tried before, but bombers give an indelible first impression of “wow, that’s a big bottle of beer!” to newcomers that is intriguing and makes us want to learn more about what’s inside.

I tried and loved many beers from Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, and the old Pete’s Wicked in my youth, but it was the first bomber of Arrogant Bastard that got me into craft beer, and I’d be lying if I said the first sight of that big, gargoyle-decorated bottle with Greg Koch’s full-length essay on the back telling me how I “probably won’t like it” didn’t have something to do with my enjoyment of the experience.

There’s something to love in just about every craft beer format: I think the 24-ounce bottles Sierra Nevada uses are perfect for its Pale Ale and IPAs, for example. Sixpoint’s 12-ounce, Red Bull-esque cans are great for some of the bigger beers it produces, and just look cool to boot. If Lagunitas ever gets the 32oz bottles of its Sucks IPA out here, folks are going to go nuts because a truly great beer in that format is unheard of. I still stock England’s St. Peter’s Organic Ale mostly because I just plain love the ‘medicine bottles’ it comes in–I mean, look at it. How can you not love that?

For me, though, I think I’d have to go with the classic German-style 16.9oz bottle. There’s something great about opening a 16.9, pouring yourself a pint of excellent beer, enjoying it, and then having that extra bit of beer left to enjoy. Perhaps it’s my love for classic German beers like Aventinus, Fritz Briem’s 1809 Berlinerweisse, and Weihenstephaner’s bigger beers like Vitus or Korbinian. Perhaps it’s due to my obsession with all things Maine Beer Company, which I believe is consistently producing some of the best, most beautiful, and most well-thought beers in American right now. I think the 16.9oz bottle has a great shape; it casts an elegant shadow. I’m not about to turn any beer down because of the package it comes in, but it’s funny to think about what you prefer sometimes, and why. What are your favorite beer formats? Any reasons?

What I’ve Been Drinking this Week:

Left Hand Wake Up Dead Nitro: I knew this one was going to be trouble when I found out about it a few months back. Left Hand has given its 10.2 percent ABV Imperial Stout the Nitro treatment and the first shipments are just arriving in Virginia. Wake Up Dead Nitro surprised me; it’s less balanced than the standard version, showing more heat on the finish and greater dark fruit notes in its malt character than the original. Left to warm up too long the heat can be a little distracting, but overall it’s a hell of a beer and worth checking out.

New Belgium RyePA (Hop Kitchen Series): This is a new one from New Belgium. I couldn’t resist after reading that Galaxy, Simcoe, Cascade and Mosaic hops were used in addition to the rye malt (I’m a sucker for rye malt). The end product is very good – great considering how reasonable the 22-ounce bombers are priced. I think I may have just expected more bite from all those hops and the rye; more spice from the Mosaic; more tropical notes from the Galaxy. I enjoyed RyePA and will be stocking it while it’s available, but I’ll never be able to have it without thinking about what it could have been. Until next time!

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net, and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings at www.arrowine.com/mailing-list-signup.aspx. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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