Beer and Pavement

Nice Package

Posted in Beer, Intersections by SM on May 16, 2011

Although some are discovering the beer can and others obsess over it, the bottle is still the primary way we get our craft beer. Beer typically comes in 12 oz, 22 oz, 750 mL, and even the rare 7 oz bottle. Occasionally, one will encounter the seasonal release in a magnum bottle, but only if you plan on sharing it with a host of friends and family.

The biggest characteristic of every beer bottle is the size. Basically, how much beer do you want to drink? The traditional serving is 12 ounces, but sometimes we are faced with a 22 oz or 750 mL bomber. This either means you have a commitment to make (especially with a beer in the 9+% ABV range) or you need a friend or two. The sixer of 12 oz bottles requires another kind of commitment, one that can be spread out over time. So, there are decisions to be made when choosing a bottle size.

Take the Maharaja I opted to open the other night. I’ve been cutting back on the weeknight beer lately, but we ordered out and rented a movie on Thursday, so I figured what the hay. My sandwich included some blue cheese, meaning that I needed a big DIPA that bordered on barley wine territory to stand up to the blue cheese. Avery’s Maharaja did the trick with its mouthful of bitter and booze. However, 22 oz was more than I intended to drink. Luckily, there are tricks. I would have used a European flip-top bottle that holds 11.2 oz, but I delivered a friend some Hopslam and haven’t been able to get my bottle back. The other option I like to use is the champaign stopper. It holds in much of the carbonation and keeps enough air out to avoid oxidation. The key is to finish the beer soon, particularly an IPA/DIPA. These beers need to be consumed fresh, no matter what some think. I did so at the end of the following day.

I don’t like to do this with a bomber of beer. I’d rather open and drink a bomber in one night. Again, a fresh beer is a beer at its peak, aside from a few notable exceptions. To do this, most beer nerds know that sharing is caring. The bomber encourages this even better than a six-pack of 12 oz bottles. Sure, it’s easy to hand your buddy a 12 oz bottle from your pack, but there’s no thought put into that share. A bomber requires a careful pour. One either pours out a sampling as to allow others to try the sweet nectar inside or there is the careful aligning of glasses when there’s two or three of you. Either way, the bomber pour demonstrates a true willingness and intention to share your beer.

Besides the bottle (and the beer itself), a large part of the experience is actually the label art. Some view labels with an artistic eye. Home brewers (myself included), put their own creativity to work with their own labels. A label can entice you to try a beer or completely turn you off, even with a poor font choice. A lot of care in creating a label that grabs the consumer’s attention, paints a picture of the experience within, and promoting a brewery’s brand is taken in the design process. Sometimes, when done well enough, the label can influence opinion about what the drinker is consuming. Even the prose on a label can create a brand’s image that lasts long past a beer’s influence.

So, packaging matters.

Then, there’s the packaging in which our music comes. Granted, one should not judge a book, beer, or record by its cover, but sometimes that’s a factor. This is especially true for record covers as they often reflect the artistic vision within or are even an extended work by the artists making the music. Sadly, this is becoming less and less of a factor as uglier record covers are produced every year, possibly due to the rash of kids downloading their music and completely forgoing the package all together.

Being that I’m in my mid-thirties, I still buy records for the the purpose of owning an artifact. Ever since someone brilliantly decided to attach MP3 downloads (and even CD’s) to vinyl releases, I buy all vinyl for my collection these days. I have purchased one or two CD’s since 2009. Since then, it’s been all vinyl.

The format is for lounging, sharing. There’s the soft tones not found on tinny digital recordings. There’s a slight crackle to lend some authenticity. You have to get up and flip the record, making you physically involved in the playing process. For what it lacks in transportability, records more than make up with the more tactile aspects of music listening. It’s the full experience, not just music.

Beer offers the same in its various formats, but it generally works in the consumer’s favor whichever format is chosen. Having a beer on tap or from a cask is usually preferable, but bottle conditioning has come a long way since craft beer went extreme and home brewers became a dime a dozen. However, I’d argue the 22 ounce bomber is the vinyl of beer packaging as it promotes sharing without encouraging you to get shit-faced (too quickly)…

And this is where I lose momentum from trying to write this over a three week period. I should have left space to address specific packages I like, but I just didn’t as I got a little long-winded with this one. Surely, it’s a topic which I will explore some more in the future, but today is not my day. Any thoughts on the subject are welcome. Keep in mind that this is an unfinished post I’m trying to get out of the way so that I can write more important things about beer and Pavement.

So, for Monday, you get two lame posts in exchange for no real post. Your ignored workload thanks me.

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2 Responses

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  1. Alex said, on May 16, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Oh man, Russian River’s use of Comic Sans gets to me too, but I’ll still buy their beer. I just tell myself that they’re putting too much thought into the product to bother, despite the fact that other great craft brewers use some wonderful labels.

    I think it’s annoying that many very big beers come in bomber bottles instead of 12 oz. containers for the same reasons you give. If sharing isn’t an option, I usually won’t bother opening a bomber even when I really have a hankering for a double IPA or RIS. I think that drinking a whole bomber myself in one sitting is overkill, no matter how good the beer is.

    I’m lucky in that my significant other shares the same taste in beer and I get lots of chances to split the good stuff with my brewing partners, so I’ll stop whining now.

    And I’m with you on the whole artifact aspect of music ownership, despite the advantages in portability that digital music provides. It was definitely a smart move for record companies to package vinyl albums with their digital counterparts

  2. […] beer labels and album covers the other day. You should check it (and the rest of his blog) out here. He has created some pretty cool labels for his own homebrews. A favorite of mine is the one he […]

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