Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Small Are Beautiful

I'm talking about bottles, of course.

Back in college or shortly thereafter, my friend Bret was contentedly sucking down a can of Milwaukee's Best Light at a party when he was accosted by a preppy kid who told him, "Life's too short to drink cheap beer!" as he waved his 7-ounce Little Kings bottle in Bret's face.  In one of the finest comebacks on record, Bret shot back, "Life's too cheap to drink short beer!".

Setting aside the multiple ironies of that exchange, I want to talk about two beers that have recently been repackaged in smaller bottles than before.  Three cheers to Bridgeport for making Hop Czar cheaper and shorter.  It makes more sense to sell a 7-8% beer in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles than it does to sell it in 22-ounce bottles.  Anyone recall what bombers of Hop Czar sold for?  I'm thinking it was $5, or an SPE of $16.36.  The six-packs have been on sale around town for $7 -- less than half the price.  Hop Czar is now a constant fixture in my fridge.

It's one thing to open a 22-ounce bottle of 8% beer, but Rogue was selling their big beers -- like the 11% Russian Imperial Stout -- in even bigger 750 ml bottles (25 ounces).  The news that Rogue's XS series would now be sold in 7-ounce bottles took the Twitternet by storm a few weeks ago.  It's obviously a much more reasonable size for such big beers.

But instead of halving the price as Bridgeport did, Rogue took advantage of the switcheroo to raise the price about 5%.  At Belmont Station, the big bottle of RIS sold for $16.49, and the new small ones are $4.79; the SPE went from $46.82 to $49.27.  Which is even more surprising when you consider that the big pottery swing-top must be a much more expensive package than the regular-old glass bottles with a cap.  The beer is good -- I bought one of the 7-ouncers and drank it even though the bottle (wisely) recommended aging for a year -- but it's not $50 six-pack good.  That's more than $10 over the SPE for Deschutes Abyss.

Apparently Ninkasi is building a new bottling line that will let them move into six-packs.  When they do, watch out! Total Domination usually has an SPE of $13.09 -- I think their retail sales will go through the roof if they bring out $7-$8 six-packs.

Since I mentioned Abyss above, what do you think about Deschutes putting some of their bruisers like Abyss or Mirror Mirror into smaller bottles?  They could go Rogue and have a little higher margin if they went from $12 bombers to $4 sevens, or they could give us a break and sell them for $3.50 and leave off the wax coating.

Anyone heard of any other breweries moving to smaller formats?  Shorter, or cheaper, or both?


  1. Didn't Rogue sell the XS series in small bottles years ago or am I remembering it wrong?

  2. From other accounts of the switch, it sounds like they were small bottles before. Old Crustacean in 7-ounces in the past, maybe?

  3. Bill,

    Jamie discussed Ninkasi's new bottling line while I was at their brewery on Saturday. He said that it was capable of bottling 12oz. bottles, but that they had no plans to move to that format at this time.

    Actually, I believe the phasing was something like "there is no intention to move any of our 22oz brews to 6 packs."


  4. Yes, Old Crustacean and other styles used to be in 7 oz bottles.