In the eye of the beholder.

I’ve been working on a couple of stories for print the last two weeks which both touch upon, in one way or another, the packing options chosen by breweries who are either entering a new market or launching a serious off-premise effort for the first time.  Personally, I am a big fan of the 22oz bottle for beer packaging, the size people call a “bomber” or a”dinner bottle” or,  in our fine homeland of Pennsylvania, a “PIA” (you don’t need that spelled out, right?). 22oz  is arguably the most expensive way to buy bottled beer and that’s a real issue everywhere, but hereabouts it’s that “case law” thing which further complicates the issue and underlines the expense.

I needed to take a break from transcribing interviews for a while this afternoon, so I sought out a representative from an active wholesaler in this market and asked that rep to put the bomber issue into perspective for me. And this is what I got (I’ve highlighted the final paragraph because I think it raises an issue brewers might want to think more about).

22oz is obviously more expensive to purchase by the case than 12oz. Even though 22oz is cheaper to package and offers less volume overall, brewers charge considerably more for it. We see cases of 12/22 cost as much as $20 to $30 more than cases of 24/12 from the same brewery even though the smaller bottles cost more to package, need a designated mother carton and carriers for the bottles.

In a case state like Pennsylvania, packaging is also a real issue for the 22oz size. Go up to a brown bomber box and look at it at eye level (also noting the hefty price tag) and then go look at a 12oz package. It’s more appealing and it’s easier to handle. There’s no comparison. Even retailers with beer savvy customers report that they naturally gravitate towards pretty looking boxes with pictures and stories rather than a plain brown box with a label from a bottle slapped on it, which is how we receive most 22oz cases. Sometimes there’s not even that; the brewery will just sharpie the name or stamp the name on the box.

As hard as it is for brewers to admit that it’s not just ‘all about the liquid,’ they need to come to grips with reality. An expensive product not only has to be high quality, it has to look like it’s worth the investment.

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