The New York Times has been getting quite a bit of attention online claiming the further “wine-fication” of craft beer is happening. The main reasoning behind this article is the container size. I find it hard to see this issue as anything more than stirring the pot and seeing who will react to “defend” craft beer or attack wine. Here is the article:
Beer: Craft Beer’s Larger Aspirations Cause a Stir nyti.ms/ZYtEV2
— NYT Food & Drink (@nytimesfood) March 5, 2013
Clearly the author has not been to Eugene. The 22 oz bomber bottle is everywhere. From bottle shops to convenience stores. Often it’s what craft beer drinkers look for. Knowing full well many of the smaller production beers they are seeking are not available in a six pack. One might wonder if this played a part in the closing of the bottle shop, Beer Nuts, on 13th and Oak. Beer Nuts was a six pack craft beer shop. They closed in late July 2010. Just down the street 16 Tons opened with primarily 22oz bottles. They opened a second location on Willamette. If the container is that important, the closing of Beer Nuts could be an example of the 22 oz bottle superiority.
Still, it’s silly to imply craft beer attempting to be more like the wine industries because of a container. If craft beer were to come in clear plastic bottles would that be the “water-fication” of craft beer? All industries have trends, cans are the latest craft beer trend. Seen recently locally with Oakshire joining in the can market. If the container is useful for the consumer and effective for the brewery it should be used. If any other industry uses it as well they likely have good cause as well. I hardly see that as an attempt to emulate.
I decided to ask a gentleman I know on the retail side as to what he thought of the article. 16 Tons employee Matt Lemos. Here is his response.
“I find my own thoughts on this fall somewhere in the middle. The large format bottles tend to be the norm for craft beer, which is very popular in Eugene. At Market of Choice the 6 pack was definitely the preferred way to purchase, but a lot of the customers there were into craft beer enough to know that the large format is sometimes the only way to get a specific beer. I also think that the demand of the “average” consumer has led breweries to get into the 6 pack business. Ninkasi, Hop Valley and now Oakshire all offer 6 pack options now. Ninkasi’s 6 packs have been crazy successful, but when you sell case after case of beers like The Abyss or Hellshire and beers from The Commons and Upright, clearly there are a lot of people who don’t mind going that route. I know that for myself, I love the big bottles, both for myself and on occasion for sharing with a group of friends to discuss the beer.”
Matt Lemos of 16 Tons and formerly of the Market of Choice beer department
Having worked the retail aspect of a grocery store and a craft beer specialty shop, his insight rings true to me. He has seen the local public demand first hand and local companies respond. Bottles of any size, cans, and the growler are all sellers. Breweries will sell you their beer however you will buy it. No comparison to wine needed. While my preferred container will likely always be the pint glass, I have no problem with any size as long as the beer I am looking for is in it.
Update: This seems like the perfect answer
— eugenecraftbeer (@eugenecraftbeer) March 12, 2013