There are a number of different ways to enjoy craft beer – at home, at a restaurant or at the local taproom. For me, most of the the beer I consume is done at my house. Ending the day with a single beer is quite common for me. This means that the beer I am drinking is packaged (bottled or canned). I have found that I really care how it is packaged and craft beer bombers are my least favorite type of packaging.
For the longest time, beer came in 12 oz bottles or cans. This was the standard and everyone seemed quite happy with this format. Somewhere along the line, larger bottles gained popularity. Typically 22 or 25 oz, these large bottles are commonly called bombers. Today beer can come in 12, 16, 22, or 25 oz containers.
When I started to really dive into the craft beer world, the best beers came in a bomber. When entering a bottle shop, my first stop was the bomber section to see what limited release I could get my hands on. I really enjoyed feeling like I was buying something unique but that feeling has faded as I have decided that these bottles are not for me.
The Problem With Craft Beer Bombers
Too Much Beer
My goal when drinking a beer is to enjoy the taste, complexity and style. So quality is much more important than quantity. Bombers are simply more beer than what I want to consume in a single session. If I want more beer then chances are I will move on to a different beer instead of drinking the same thing all night.
These are my preferences but I know many that feel the same way. This means that we must save the craft beer bombers for sharing with a friend or a group at a bottle share. Furthermore, if I had two 12oz bottles, instead of a bomber, then I could enjoy that beer on two separate occasions instead of drinking it all during one sitting. For those that like to age beer, small bottles are idea as well. One four pack of a beer can be enjoyed now and three times in the future.
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Wrong Kind Of Beer
What is most odd is the type of beer that is frequently found in bombers. There are more high ABV beers in these types of bottles than anything else. Stouts dominate this category; especially if it is barrel-aged. This really doesn’t make much sense since most people will drink less of a high ABV beer. It would be better to put a low ABV beer into these large bottles. But that goes against the philosophy of craft beer bombers featuring a premium or rare brew.
Now this is not always the case because some lower ABV beers will make it into large bottles from time to time. For example, saisons, sours and others are often featured in the larger bottles. But more often than not, it is a high octane beer like 12% barrel-aged Russian imperial stouts that is in the largest bottles.
The most unsettling issue is with pricing. Craft beer bombers are often priced much higher per ounce compared to similar beers found in 12oz cans or bottles.
For example, it is common for a bomber to be priced around $15. Which makes is the beer $.68 per ounce. If a 12oz bottle was priced in a similar manner it would be around $8. How many $8 bottles of beer are out there? And at $15 it might not even be a barrel-aged beer as most that have been in a barrel are closer to $20 a bottle.
There are some exceptions; the Lagunitas Cappuccino and Rivertown Death both come to mind. Both are well under $10 a bottle and are excellent beers. Still probably more than I want to drink in one sitting but at least the price is fair.
In defense of the pricing, some of these beers in bombers are small batch, special release, etc. These factors drive up the cost. However, I am often deterred by the cost of bombers and I don’t think that I am alone.
While I love Founders, their latest release of KBS has me scratching my head. A four-pack of this Kentucky Breakfast Stout beer is around $24 for a four-pack ($6 a bottle) which makes it $.50 per ounce. Pricey but not out of question for a barrel-aged beer of this quality. The same beer also comes in a bomber (25oz) and is around $20 or $.80 per ounce. It is more expensive to buy the larger bottle. Why? It should be the same price if not slightly less than the smaller bottles.
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Times Are Changing
Luckily, it appears that craft beer drinkers are in agreement – craft beer bombers are not ideal. Many breweries have started to move away from the larger bottles in favor of the traditional 12 oz bottle based on consumer demand.
Southern Tier is a great example of this trend to smaller bottles. In the past, their limited release beers were almost exclusively in bombers. Now Pumpking, Warlock, Creme Brulee, their latest release Thick Mint and many others are available in both bombers and 4-packs of 12oz bottles. Thick Mint sounded really good but I passed on it when I found a bomber of it. Then a few weeks later, gladly bought a single 12oz bottle.
Locally in Cincinnati, Listermann Brewing is moving towards using more 12oz bottles where bombers were used in the past. I buy more of their releases because they are in smaller bottles.
The best part of beer moving away from large bottles is I am able to share beer with more people. While some will argue that bombers are great for sharing; they are only great for sharing with people I am with at the moment. A four or six pack allows me to give beer to friends and co-workers or ship it to craft beer friends across the country. Smaller packaging is better for spreading craft beer and making more friends with it.
Brewing beer is like any other business, companies have to continually alter their practices to meet the changing demand of consumers. Moving more and more beer into 12oz bottles or cans is what I want to see. Do I still buy craft beer in bombers? Yes, there will also be something that I want that is only available in a bomber. But overall, I am buying a lot less large bottles than I did in the past and that trend will continue.
What size bottles do you prefer?
Have you ever passed on a beer because it was in a large bottle?