Fonefan the Ratebeerian

Jan Bolvig, way, way better known among RateBeerians (members of the online beer geek community RateBeer.com) as Fonefan drinks as much beer as possible. He has well over 23,000 beer reviews to his nom-de-beer, making him the most prolific rater. As such, he actually drinks as little beer as possible.

To clarify, in order to get through so gosh darn many beers (known in the community as ticking, which I covered in All About Beer), Jan & his Danish cohorts drink uber tiny quantities of each. The try 20-30 new beers in a single night. Sampling 200 over a dedicated weekend isn’t unheard of. To quaff whole servings, 30 cL or more, would, well, let’s just here his quote:

Normal in the Copenhagen tastings is approximately 4-5 centiliters (cL) since they are many people sharing a bottle. At tasings hosted by me we try to get minimum 5-10 cL of each beer. Other tastings it can be 10-20 cL. But the thing about sample size is  just a matter of how focused you are.

There you have it, if in slightly broken English, professional, devoted beer drinkers drink on average 10 cL (about 3 oz.) per beer. Almost makes a whole nip (19 cL) seem super-sized.



Blvd Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale in 25 & 12 oz bottles

I know I love nips. I love when I hear I’m not alone. I popped into BeerMongers yesterday where I saw The Oregonian’s beer columnist John Foyston and the bottle shop’s co-founder Sean Campbell, and promptly discovered that I’m not alone. We love nips. Not just 7oz bottles, but all smaller, more responsible packaging.

I bought two beers: Fifty Fifty Eclipse (Brewmaster’s Grand Cru version in the copper wax) at 9.5% ABV and Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale at 8%. The coveted 22-oz bomber of Russian Imperial Stout cost me $25.35 (five-six bucks cheaper than Belmont Station’s selling it for). Most people think of Tank 7 as coming in a 750-mL bottle–which it does–as part of Blvd’s Smokestack Series for specialty beers. But around Christmastime, they put out a four-pack sampler in 12-oz bottles dubbed Little Smokies. Because BeerMongers sells everything as singles, Sean broke ’em up and sells the 12-oz bottle of Tank 7 right below the cork finished wine bottle. The price difference? Get this: $4.25 and $11.80, respectively. Same fantastic farmhouse ale, but at 35 cents an ounce for the single-serve bottle, but 46 cents an ounce for the fancy-looking one. Not only do you save $3 by buying two of the 12-oz bottles, but it makes it way more practical to enjoy a beer like this–that is so versatile it goes with practically anything you’re having for dinner.

The larger format bottle may sit around waiting for the right moment. That’s exactly what will happen with that bottle of Eclipse, which both John and Sean echoed. It’s one of the most amazing beers on the planet, but when will we actually pull the trigger on bottles like these? Not to mention, the brewery literally released SEVEN iterations of it this year, matured in various brandy, rye, and bourbon barrels. It’d cost you almost $200 to buy just one of each. Who the hell’s gonna do that? Especially since the only proper way to appreciate the nuances between them is to open them simultaneously for a parallel-tasting. Hey Fifty-Fifty, if Blvd could sell half-bottles at under half price, we’d love to see this series released in bottles one-third size at a “full” one-third price.

Big Eddy, small price (Or: nips, snobs, and schnitts)

Schnitts of Leinies (Photo: B. Yaeger)

Back when I met with Jake Leinenkugel (and his wife, Peggy, and his father, Bill, R.I.P.) at his brewery in Chippewa Falls, WI, we discussed issues like brewing big beers as well as selling them at big prices. As the second oldest brewery in the country (behind family-owned Yuengling), despite being owned by MillerCoors and shoehorned into its subsidiary Tenth & Blake, Jake is still the main man in the main office in Chippewa. As one of MillerCoors’s primary entrees in the craft beer segment (alongside Terrapin Brewing, which is now owns a minority share of), Leinies ventures away from its core German-style beers like lagers, Weisses, and bocks (heck, even its popular Summer Shandy is practically the same as the Radlers popular in Germany) and into stuff like one of the beer-geekiest styles, Russian Imperial Stout.

In certain markets you can find 4-packs of Big Eddy RIS at a very reasonable price point of about $11. Compare this to, say, Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, which retails for around $17 per 4-pack. Awesomer still, Tenth & Black/Leinie’s kindly sent us a couple whiskey-aged iterations bottled in bona fide NIPS.

Let’s look back at that aforementioned discussion, as an excerpt from my book:

Peg raised the issue that “beer is for the common person. It crosses all economic boundaries…”

“At the same time,” I countered, “one of the things that you see are some crazy styles and very expensive beer out there. Thirty or more dollars a bottle. Would it be safe to guess that you would not put out a beer for that niche?”

 “Personally, I would love to brew a beer that good and worthy of that amount of money,” said Jake surprisingly. “I don’t think we would really do it because it’s not something that would fit in with our consumer profile, or our brand positioning. Some of those brews aren’t very drinkable for the masses. Some microbreweries are making something very eclectic and pricing it at what I call ‘the snob range.’”

Just then, Bill re-entered saying, “Let me interject something. I just went out and had just a schnitt of Sunset Wheat and this was about the fourth time that I’ve tried it.”

There ya have it. The folks in (or near) Milwaukee find a way to put some Leinie’s beer “that good” on the shelves and avoid “the snob range.” And Bill, who had been the fourth generation to captain the brewery, championed responsible portions of beer such as schnitts. Here’s to you, Bill.

Is WeLoveSchnitts.com taken?,


Fermented Bottle Rant

From nip to not (photo: B Yaeger)

Michael over at The Mad Fermentationist does one of my favorite blogs. Yeah, there’s lots of awesome homebrew recipes from clones–why break the bank buying Lost Abbey Cable Car when you can brew your own?–to funky stuff: Neo Kvass Imperial Sourdough, anyone? But he’s also got great ideas (rants) and vocalizes them well. Well, blogizes them well.

So imagine our delight when he posted about craft beer bottle sizes a short while ago.

Can craft brewers please stop with the bombers and 750s of strong beers?

…Instead of seeing a per ounce savings the large format bottles are often more than twice as expensive as their smaller counterparts.

…When I am buying a beer I haven’t had before, or one that sounds weird/experimental I’d rather buy as little of it as possible (which is why it is great that some beer bars sell sampler sizes). I’d love to see more breweries putting their weird beer into smaller bottles (7 oz nips would be perfect)

Preach on, Mad Fermentationist, preach on.

Stubby no more

I love nips


Allow us to pause from our focus on smaller bottles and portions of beer to celebrate something else miniature: baby Izzy Parker Yaeger (and yes, you can call him I.P.Yae). Trust us, if anyone loves nips, it’s this guy!

Six-pack equivalent

It's Pub Night's Six-Pack Equivalent app: how much are you paying per oz? Per 6pk?

Our great fear is that people–producers and consumers–are forgetting about nips altogether and that the responsible packaging would disappear. But there are gentle reminders here and there that keep us from chewing our finger nails off completely. Since price, as much as the contents of a bottle, affect purchasing decisions, Bill Night at It’s Pub Night has created the Six-Pack Equivalent Calculator. Included among the various options for buying beer, from bombers to pints, to kegs, is the majestic seven-ounce bottle.

Of the SPE, Bill says he created it as:
…A way to wrap your mind around the cost of filling a growler…Even though no one would expect beer consumed at the point of sale to be priced similarly to a retail six-pack, the six-pack equivalent is still a useful way to compare prices in a situation where the volumes offered are different.
What did we discover about the SPE of some of the nips on the market? Well, a 7-oz nip of Rogue XS Old Crustacean at 4.59 per bottle is practically the equivalent of a $50 six pack of 12-ouncers, and that a single Coronita ($1.09) is the SPE of more than $11, even though an actual 6-pk of  of Corona Extra is usually about 7 bucks.
Yikes. Strike 1 against nips.
Fiscally yours,