Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fancy Doodads and Fancy Bottles.

Emptying the notebook: Check out the serve-yourself tap at Meridian Pint, a new beer-centric pub in DC. No need to flag down a waiter; the electronic tap handle tallies up your bill by counting ounces poured and fractions thereof. Really nifty if you're in a hurry to drink. There are two of them at booths in the downstairs bar. They were occupied when we arrived. I'm not sure we'd have done it anyway. The only options on the tap were Ommegang and Samuel Adams... Fine, but the full draft beer list was much more fun.

Our undisputed winner that night was the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter from Great Lakes. Killer combination of deep roasted character and easy drinkability. Considering its richness the 5.8% strength is more than reasonable. It's another nominee for Perfect American Beer According to Me, barely edging out the same brewery's also-excellent Burning River Pale Ale. (The popular Cleveland-based brewery must have been making a distribution push lately, because I'm seeing its beers in states where I didn't see them last year.)

Finally: Like Alan, I'm tired of expensive corked bottles. We're paying a lot extra for that nonsense. That's all fine and good for really special beers, when you want a bit of a show, but we're losing out on more drinkable beers. Alan's example is Allagash Special; I could point toward the sadly retired Boulevard Saison, which has made way for the more alcoholic but less impressive Tank 7.

If the Saison didn't sell so well in the 75cl bottles, maybe Boulevard should revive it in packaging we can afford. Then watch what happens.


  1. Sorry. Packaging versus quality reminded me of a line from Tommy Boy:

    "Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I got spare time. But for now, for your customer's sake, for your daughter's sake, ya might wanna think about buying a quality product from me."

  2. In the Imaginary Brewery Business Plan of mine, the flagship is a 4-ingredient saison not to top 5% alcohol (likely a bit less). It will be bottled only in standard 12 ouncers and sold in groups of 6.

    And I like the idea of that self-serve tap. Not for the novelty. Not for the convenience either, but for the fact that I could actually get 16 ounces when paying for 16 ounces.

  3. I have never seen the point of self-service, but then I have a weakness for pretty women bringing me beer.

  4. The self serve taps were a big thing here last year. Now pubs are throwing them out wholesale. The space where the tap was fits an ashtray neatly, so some have been ending up in smoking areas.

  5. Make of this what you will.

    In the final six weeks of 2007, when Boulevard began selling Smokestack beers, the brewery sold 2,306 cases of 750ml bottles, to lead the Missouri market (for the entire year) with a 26 percent market share of large bottles. In 2008, Boulevard shipped 9,309 cases and claimed 42 percent of the market. But that still means everybody went up, the category nearly doubling, from 10,889 to 20,902 case equivalents.

    Maybe some of it was the novelty, but it seems to strike a chord with consumers. I'm willing to support thicker/stronger bottles if brewers will package their saisons with sufficient carbonation. 2.5 volumes does not cut it.

  6. I'm with you on the large format bottles, Joe. While I think there is a time and a place for bombers, and admit to having quite a few in my cellar, some beers are just better served in 12oz. bottles.

    I find that there are two general categories for this:

    1) Session beers: I don't want or need a czech pilsner to be caged & corked in a 750ml bottle. I want them in a six pack, I want to drink 2 or 3 of them, and I want each one to be nice and cool when I open it. I love Three Floyds, but this is one of the issues I have with their offerings. Gorch Fock (Helles) and Black Sun ( dry hopped Irish Stout) are FANTASTIC beers that you hardly ever see on tap. But I refuse to pay $10 for a 22oz bottle of either.

    2) Super huge, high-octane beers: There are certainly people who will disagree here, but I think 12oz. of a bourbon barrel-aged 13% imperial stout is just fine. I can enjoy the beer without having to wait for another big-beer loving friend to stop by. And if I really want more, I can always just open another bottle.

    Another problem I have with these big bottles is the cost. Given that a brewery also packages in 12oz bottles/cans, I don't see why the large format bottles are always much more expensive per ounce (with the very much appreciated exception of Lagunitas). Is it really over four times as costly for Brooklyn to make Hopfen Weisse than their IPA?