Time Out New York. Time In Half Pints

Time Out New York‘s new issue is all about “NYC’s Greatest Beer.” It’s like 7 pages of beer reporting from the brewing kings of Queens to haute beer-infused fare. There’s one section called “Out with the old, in with the brew” by Christopher Ross about new trends in beer. Our favorite? “The half pint is the new pint.”

With the explosion of beers on the market–and so many of them carrying fearsome ABVs–the 16-ounce pour can prove unduly limiting. As suds destinations like Proletariat and the Pony, the eight-ounce version has gained ascendance among in-the-know drinkers, who favor the new serving size for encouraging a wider sampling of drafts and being easier on the wallet and liver.

I’ll raise a toast to little glasses in the Big Apple.

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Rocky Mountain Nips

The 375 ml bottle (or 12.7 ounces) is “a perfect size to have by yourself or share over dinner,” (Crooked Stave‘s Chad Yakobson) said.

Photo: ThreeBarrelBrew.com

That line is from Eric Gorski’s latest post in his First Drafts blog on DenverPost.com. Gorski’s in the enviable position of writing about beers, events–and trends–in the Colorado brewing scene (and showing some love to others in equally enviable positions around the country such as the PacNW). The post, “Goodbye bomber? Boutique breweries switching to smaller bottles,” shows Colorado brewers such as Crooked Stave in Denver and Three Barrels in the southwest corner eschewing bombers and 750s and espousing 375 ml bottles! Brilliant! And now they’re on record doing it for all the right reasons (pricing, responsible portion, and a new one: risk-aversion). We’ve had the pleasure of trying Crooked Stave’s beers, meeting Chad, and even writing them up, and look forward to discovering Three Barrels beers. (Good thing we have family in nearby Durango.) Finally, as someone commented on the blog, “…this is great news! I appreciate the difference in price too as that has always kept me from being able to try everything I was interested in.” Go small or go home!

Kudos Block 7.5

ImageIf you’re not already, get hip to Block 15 in Corvallis. We haven’t been down since they opened Les Caves next door a year ago, but word is it’s an amazing gastropub. The beers from their barrel program have been nearly-uniformly off the hook; we successfully lobbied for Le Ferme de Demons, a Pinot and Bourbon oaked, dark, cherry Saison, to make a year-end Best Of list. Heretofore, those beers were bottled in 750s and rang up at around $16-17. Recently, they released two coveted sour ales, both with local Willamette Valley fruit, in 375-mL “half” bottles!  Sure, it’d be easy to knock back an entire wine bottle of Strawberry Fields or Framboise White (the use of golden raspberries gives it a lighter flavor and is delectably fragrant), but it’s way better to score a pair of bottles each, both for around 9 bucks, and the extra dollar or two enables us to enjoy one now and cherish the other later. Same great experience, now with plenty of cash left in your pocket for next year’s release.

We Love Magnums

Brewer Jason McAdam gets his nip, er, magnum on. Photo: Samurai Artist

One of the beauties of nip bottles is that they let you enjoy the exact right amount of strong beer when you’re simply partaking of a high gravity beer by yourself.  You don’t always have a ton of friends around when you wanna break into a tasty, coveted brew. But when you do have your buds around, why offer up a puny bomber? Go big or go friendless. That’s why, for the right, rare occasions, impress your mates with a 1.5L magnum. Pop into Burnside Brewing today for their ultra rare release (only 100 magnums) of Neptune’s Wrath, a 10.2% “Imperial Strong Ale with Oyster Liquor and Lemon Peel.” (Not for those with shellfish allergies or aversions to bivalves.)

At 1,500 mL, that’s almost 8 nips in one.

NipMongers

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?,

Brian

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,
Brian