A trend toward wine-sized beer bottles is driving a split between those who make beer and those who drink it, reports Clay Risen in The New York Times (3/6/13). The pattern of putting beer in 750-milliliter wine bottles — or even larger — is part of a strategy among breweries “to make their product as respectable to pair with braised short ribs as a nice Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and at a price to match.” Brewers also think the bigger bottle is more social: “We want you to share it with a friend, pour it into a glass and actually experience the beer rather than just grab it and drink,” says Ben Weiss of Bruery, which uses 750-milliliter bottles exclusively.
Price is another factor, as “high-end craft beer is being made with ever more exotic ingredients like cacao nibs and imported honey, and it’s often aged in whiskey or wine barrels.” However, there’s only so much the typical consumer will pay for a 12-ounce bottle of beer, and besides, the container just doesn’t have the stature or prestige of a wine-sized vessel. The hope is that the new size will shift price-value perceptions. Unfortunately, some beer drinkers aren’t buying into any of this at any price. Some simply object to the “gentrification” of beer, which they cherish “as an inexpensive, by-the-glass proposition.”
Others “are uncomfortable with the notion of drinking beer like wine, to be split among several people and pondered.” The fancy beers also tend to have “higher alcohol content, a challenge to finish in one sitting,” and unlike wine, a beer bottle can’t be re-corked. Then there are fans who resent that “all the interesting, innovative new releases seem to go into bottles that cost as much as a bottle of wine. Ben Granger of Bierkraft, a craft-beer store, will have none of it. “I don’t think beer and beer culture need to be more like wine,” he says. “I think they need to keep being themselves.”