Thursday, June 11, 2009

Six-Pack Equivalent Calculator

In my frequent tirades against high growler prices, I make the claim that the cost of filling a growler with beer should be in the ballpark of the price of a six-pack of similar quality. They serve the same end, namely taking some beer home. Thus was born the six-pack equivalent, or SPE: a way to wrap your mind around the cost of filling a growler.

Even though no one would expect beer consumed at the point of sale to be priced similarly to a retail six-pack, the six-pack equivalent is still a useful way to compare prices in a situation where the volumes offered are different. For example, in writing up PGE Park, I compared the SPE of PGE's 12 and 20 ounce cups ($45 and $29.70 respectively). Or you could compare the price of imperial pints at Bailey's Taproom with that of cheater pints nearby at Henry's, and see who gives you a better deal.

To that end, here is a six-pack equivalent calculator (below). [Update 2011/01/01: My neighbor Lindsey has now turned this into an Android phone app! Fitting, because he originally inspired the SPE by comparing growler prices with single-bottle prices. Further update: Now there are also two iPhone SPE apps.]

  Someone is selling beer in

64 ounce growlers
750 ml bottles
22 ounce bottles
0.5 liter (16.9 ounce) bottles
12 ounce bottles or cans
33 cl bottles
7 ounce bottles

glasses with 20 ounce fill line (Brewers Union Local 180)
glasses with 0.5 liter fill line (Deschutes)
glasses with 16 ounce fill line (Belmont Station)
glasses with 0.4 liter fill line (Hopworks)
20 ounce glasses (19 oz. of liquid)
16 ounce glasses (15 oz. of liquid)
cheater pints (13 oz. of liquid)

servings of   ounces
servings of     liters

15.5 gallon kegs (1/2 barrel)
7.75 gallon pony kegs (1/4 barrel)
5.16 gallon (1/6 barrel) kegs
5 gallon Cornelius kegs
5 liter mini-keg
1 gallon container

in quantities of

  for the price of



  The six-pack equivalent (SPE) price is:

It helps put a lot of things into perspective. For instance, I was surprised to find that my $11 bombers of Mirror Mirror cost me an SPE of $36. Compare Sierra Nevada Bigfoot for about $11/six-pack at the 7-11. Or consider that Full Sail Session -- because of the 11-ounce bottles -- has an SPE of $6 for an $11 12-pack. Not as good as the $5.50 if the bottles held 12 ounces.I was just guessing about how much actual beer is in 20- or 16-ounce glasses, figuring you lose about an ounce for the head on the beer. Anyone have any scientific data?

Also, let's have a round of applause for those establishments with a fill line marked on the glass: Brewers Union, Deschutes, Belmont Station, and Hopworks.

Give the calculator a whirl. Find any interesting bargains or rip-offs?


  1. Great idea. How about adding choices for full keg (15.5 gallon), quarter barrel (7.75 gallons), and Cornelius keg (5 gallons) for those with kegerators?

    Here are some Laurelwood prices I ran:
    15.5 Gallon organic @ $125 = $4.54 SPE
    7.75 gallon organic @ $69 = $5.01 SPE
    5 gallon organic refill @ $55 = $6.19 SPE
    Growler @ $10 (64 oz) = $11.25 SPE

  2. You are so tech-y! (Except for the terrible oversight of failing to have a smart phone.) This will be a handy widget.

  3. Well done Bill! Very handy tool.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Fantastic. This should be a permanent part of your blog, I say, widgeted up on the sidenav or something.

  5. Thanks, fellas.

    My sidebar already looks like a flea market, I'll probably put a link to this page over there like the review generator link.

  6. 1000 pints to you, sir. This is great.

  7. A couple more useful additions would be a 5 L mini-keg or a 1 gallon cubitainer. Both are used as growler substitutes by a few brewpubs. Although these can be using combinations of other containers, it would be nice to include them.

  8. BahHumBrew: That's a good idea, I'll add 5 liter and 1 gal. entries. I think it also needs an entry field for some number of liters, like the one for ounces. I'll get around to it sometime this week.

  9. Please, Please, PLEASE make this app for andriod!

  10. OK, Anonymous. 18 months later, my neighbor has granted your wish for an Android SPE App.

  11. Hey Bill, any qualms with me adapting this to the iPhone?

  12. Mark: Someone got hold of me yesterday and has already started (maybe finished by now?) an iPhone version. Please drop me an email and we can talk more about it.

  13. Mark, Bill, anyone...

    I'd be super stoked if one was adapted for iPhone.


  14. POSTYMcPOSTERTON: Your wish has been granted!

  15. At the risk of sounding like a complete lush, can I recommend adding an ABV field to the calculation?

  16. Gabriel: Are you reading my mind? I don't know when it will happen, but I have been quietly planning for a few months to put a separate ABV calculator on the blog soon. A quick internet scan finds a few out there; also if you're a smart-phone holder, there are some ABV apps that look pretty cool -- at least one of them shows you a graph of your ABV over time.

  17. Ugh. I must have been drinking when I read gabriel's request for ABV calculations. I was thinking BAC (blood alcohol content) calculations, which I am working on. Gabe, what do you mean for ABV? Do you mean total alcohol dose from a given size and given strength?

  18. Oh, that makes more sense now!

    Yeah, for instance if a bar has 2 IPAs both for $4, I'm likely to get the one that's 7% instead of 4% because it's more buzz for my buck.

  19. I suggest you add
    o 4 pack of 16 ounce cans
    to your SPE calculator. I realize 4*16=64; thus, the growler and serving of ___ounces afford the capability of compute the SPE.

    _back story_
    Four pack of 16 oz cans [aka, pounders or tall boys] of artisan beer are becoming more common [Caldera, Ft. George, HUB, Oskar Blues].

  20. Good idea, Jack. When I get a moment to spare, I'll add 16-ounce cans to the bullet list.

    I don't want to get into adding 4-packs since the number of cans is orthogonal to the volume, and people can just use the "quantities" field for that.

  21. Oskar Blues released their 2011 GABF Silver medal winning Deviant Dale's IPA in [04 pack of] pounders. The SPE price [based on two Boulder, Colo., liquor stores] was $16.30. Ouch. !Dale, Dude, you're growing some of your own hops!

    On 02 April, New Belgium releases Shift Pale Lager, their newest year-round offering, only in pounders. Hoping for a less 'out of flock' price.

  22. This is a great tool! I do these calculations in my head (or try to) all the time!

    I used to get $6 growler fills (64 oz of course) at Georgetown Brewing. Their bigger beers were &7. Of course they upped those prices a buck a couple years ago though.

    In contrast, Chuck's Hop Shop charges mostly inordinately high growler fill prices.


Thanks for leaving a comment! I will delete spam and long stupid comments. Comments that are smart or short will survive.

Please tag anonymous comments with your name, initials, or CB handle so that people can respond to you.