Tuesday 10 December 2013

Craft thimbles

My local Morrisons and Tesco have recently created separate “craft beer” sections, stocked with a mixture of beers they already had, such as Punk IPA, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Innis & Gunn, and new introductions such as Shipyard, Point IPA and Professor Green’s Remedy. Not, maybe, something that will set the dedicated crafterati’s pulses racing, but a clear indication of how “craft” has established itself as a distinct category.

However, one distinguishing feature of these craft offerings is that they all come in 330ml or 355ml bottles as opposed to the 500ml bottles that dominate the Premium Bottled Ales section just down the beer aisle, even though the prices are often scarcely cheaper if at all. I have to say that I find one of these small bottles strangely unsatisfying, at least for normal-strength beers of maybe up to 6.0% ABV, and am much happier with the larger size which comfortably fits into a pint glass.

A couple of years ago I ran a poll on preferred bottle sizes which revealed a wide divergence of opinion. And I’m reminded of this splendid rant from Mark Dexter (aka The Hearty Goodfellow) against “test-tube sized bottles”:

The children's-sized bottle, however, quickly becomes a right old pain in the proverbial, especially when you realise that the happy event is pretty much over after around three average mouthfuls. If this were an act of love making, it would trigger a very awkward argument. No question about it.
It’s not a question of people preferring 500ml bottles simply because they want more beer – the smaller ones leave you unfulfilled and wanting more.

So is this an indication of yet another divide opening up in the beer market between the would-be hipster with his slim, trendy 330ml bottle, and the pot-bellied fogey with his pint-like 500ml?


  1. can try more different beers in one sitting with smaller bottle sizes

  2. That's an argument for using egg cups, Steve.

  3. And how many people settling down at home with a beer in front of the telly want to maximise the number of different beers consumed at one sitting?

  4. lots of the scandinavian ratebeerians do...but then they're not regular drinkers. I'd want at least a third pint of something to taste it properly (in most cases)

  5. 330ml bottles are an utterly stupid size, one of them won't fill your pint glass properly, but two of them won't fit in either.

    I always thought that the 500ml bottle were for *good* beers that you would want to pour into a glass and drink slowly, whereas the 330ml bottles were designed to be drunk out of the bottle whilst standing up.

    I would actually prefer a little 250ml stubby to a 330ml bottle.

  6. Professor Pie-Tin10 December 2013 at 14:54

    UK craft beer doesn't offer value for money which is why, rather like organic veg and free-range chicken, it will always be a niche market.

    As I sit up late at night watching the England Test debacle Down Under I want volume to drown my sorrows.

  7. Priceless. If Aliens landed and read these comments it would be for mash get Smash all over again.

  8. I suppose the inspiration behind this is that because US craft beer tends to come in 12oz = 355ml bottles then British craft beer has to follow suit.

  9. Professor Pie-Tin10 December 2013 at 17:21

    Well, most have followed suit by considering excessive hopping to be the hallmark of craft beer.
    That and over-pricing.

  10. I’ve been told by a brewer friend that the demand for the 330ml bottles is driven by the supermarkets — my mate’s beer was perfectly happy in a 500ml bottle and now its been given its own 330ml makeover and very sad it looks, personally I prefer 750mls as you get in Belgium and the US

  11. Though a couple of years ago Tesco experimented with selling 330ml bottles of some of the more popular PBAs. It didn't last long, possibly because it didn't fit comfotably into multibuy offers.

    How it might be described is that the supermarkets are driving the distinction between 330ml "craft" bottles and 500ml PBAs.

  12. Just seen this on twitter, it would be more to my liking.

    Sierra Nevada Beer ‏@SierraNevada 2m
    3-liter bottles of Celebration Ale up for grabs in our Gift Shop (Chico) and Torpedo Room (Berkeley)!… http://instagram.com/p/hwfAP-jlY1/

  13. Little bottles are OK for the US, where they use smaller glasses and buy their beer in multipacks, but here I generally want 500ml. Unless it's Old Tom or something, I guess.

  14. If it's one of those really hoppy US IPAs, then 33 cl is more than enough for me. The US size of 22 US oz, which is around 65 cl, is a really odd size. I prefer the Belgian approach which is either 33 or 75 cl. However, 75 cl of a Chimay Bleue has the impact of a sledge-hammer. Weak UK beers can be drunk in pints but I don't really want a pint of a Leffe or a lambic beer.

  15. I think the trend towards 330ml bottles in UK is driven by the fashion of drinking straight from the bottle.

    Here in southern Europe, unless you are a really fast drinker, the 500ml bottles (we are of course talking about chilled lager style beers here) tend to get warm before you finish them, so I will always drink small bottles.

    In Thailand, most beers are sold in either 330ml or 660ml bottles. As I think I've mentioned before, the Thais counter the warming beer problem by putting loads of ice in the glass, which is odd at first, but I found I got used to it.

  16. 330ml is too small!! Although if its an imported beer or beer made with exotic hops then perhaps a 500ml version could be too dear for the average supermarket beer shopper?


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