20 September 2011

An open thank you to Bells and Founders

I will start by saying the reason I want to thank both breweries isn't just because they make fantastic beer, but because they sell their beer in 12 oz bottles, and they could go to bombers and charge a much higher premium. The trend I am seeing more and more of is going to the 22 oz bottle with lines of bigger beers. I think it would have been easy for both of those breweries to put their bigger and more highly allocated beers like Oracle, Expedition Stout, and Hopslam for Bells and Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Imperial Stout, and Breakfast Stout for Founders in bomber sized bottles for a higher price, and they would still sell out. I much prefer the smaller packaging so I can open up one beer for myself instead of a big 22oz beer, but more importantly to me, I don't have my pants pulled down over the price. Let me explain:

Bombers are a great way to package more beers, but it also commands a much higher price tag to go along with it. I am amazed when people bitch about an 18.99$ six pack for Expedition Stout, but buy a 10$ bomber because they think they are getting a steal. Lets put some perspective to that:

A $7 dollar bomber is the equivalent of a $22.91 six pack
A $10 dollar bomber is the equivalent of a $32.73 six pack.
A $12.50 bomber is the equivalent of a $40.91 six pack
A $15.00 bomber is the equivalent of $49.09 six pack
A $20.00 bomber (sadly becoming more common) is $65.45 for a six pack
A $20.00 Belgian 750 is $56.78 a six pack

Let's reverse this and show what a bomber would cost you of Expedition Stout for instance. Full and fair disclosure is that I think Expedition is one of the finest stouts available without having to go through hell to get a six pack of it.

At $18.99 a six pack would be $5.80 cents a bomber. I don't know of any bombers available in Indiana that are at that price. Sierra Nevada pale ale is around a 4 bucks I believe, but anything else is much higher than that.

Let's look at KBS at $21.99 a four pack for 12 oz bottles. Roughly .46 cents an ounce in that format makes a $10.12 barrel aged bomber! One of the best barrel aged beers available in the US would be $10.12 a bomber!

I would think you would get a volume discount here, but I am trying to think of other products that you pay a premium on to buy in a larger format, and I can't come up with much.

I understand the pros and cons of the bomber, and I am not saying don't buy bombers, but certainly it makes you think a little bit.

A big thank you to Founders and Bells for continuing to produce beer in the 12 oz format. Companies that produce a quality product at a reasonable price will continue to get the lion's share of my beer dollars.



  1. Let's thank Dark Horse as well. Shorts too.

    It's not 100%, but Michigan seems to be the land of the 12oz specialty beer.

  2. Kind of a different category in terms of packaging and distribution, but breweries like Oskar Blues and Ska do a good job of selling sixers of 12 oz. cans at a reasonable price. But of course, you can't get either brewery's beer in Indiana.

  3. Actually, there are a couple reasonably priced large bottles in Indiana. Sierra Nevada has 24oz seasonals for ~4.99. Stone Smoked Porter is often around 4.99. I picked up New Belgium's Kick for 6.49. New Holland has 4.99 bombers.

    I realize those are the minority, but good bomber values are still to be had if you seek them out.

  4. Anyone have more thoughts on a product that you actually pay a premium to purchase in a larger format?

  5. But I think Matt's point is that EVEN IF you can find bombers for $4.99 (and we've obviously identified some available in IN), that's the equivalent of a relatively expensive $16.33 six pack.

    My favorite example in the bomber vs. six pack argument is Stone Ruination, one of the few beers available in both formats. Kahn's is currently selling it for $7.49/bomber (34 cents/oz) and $18.99/6er (26 cents/oz). Per ounce, a bomber costs a whopping 29% more for the SAME FUCKING THING.

  6. Good post. I've been doing this kind of math in my head a lot lately when eyeballing bombers. Michigan simply rocks for craft beer. You can tell that the folks who run the breweries really love what they're doing because they aren't gouging people. 22s for me are luxuries, especially when they go up past about $8...I think they're good for sharing or doing tastings at home, but for everyday drinking they're highly impractical.

  7. Couldn't agree more. As much as I love Panzer and dreadnaught, the price is hard to justify. Thank god they are doing six packs of Zombie Dust.

  8. I understand your math, but you might want to look at our math when "justifying" your purchasing decision. Do you know what kind of bottom-line most of the breweries you are purchasing from run on? I can tell you for one that I have recently hired or agreed to hire 3 people who make more money than me. Sort of beside the point, but I pay myself a living wage so that I can do what I love to do, which is craft exciting beers. We charge what we charge so we can continue to do so. The illustrations set forth above about ounce prices per format are sort of ridiculous even though your math works out. Nobody is getting rich here. Well, very few. And the ones you think are rich are really a squillion dollars in debt. So, you certainly have every right to break down prices per ounce and publish your findings, but if you find a bunch of $4.99 large bottle formats on your shelf anytime soon, it won't last long because we'll all be out of business.

  9. One case to be made for bombers is the ability of the brewery to get their beer out to more consumers. If all they did was 4 and 6 packs, they'd be eating up 48 and 72 ounces all in one shot. At least with the case of the bomber, you are stretching a limited supply of specialty beer to more people.

    Let's assume a 30 barrel batch of beer is brewed. By my match, you'd be putting 119,040 ounces of beer into the market. If the brewery sells only 4-packs, that would be 2,480 opportunities for purchase. A sixer pushes that down to 1,653 opportunities. At least with the bomber, you are giving potentially 5,410 consumers the chance to purchase the beer.

  10. I now live in California and all of our bombers are south of six dollars.

    Alpine, many Alesmith beers, 500ML of Pliny for 4.99, Deschutes all under six dollars, Drakes, Stone for 3.99, Ballast Point etc.

    They are doing it right and continue to innovate and produce amazing beer at cheap prices.

  11. here here!! 12oz multi > 22oz singles

  12. FTWayneTransplant

    Let's not confuse California with Indiana.

  13. Ted,

    I wasn't trying to single out any brewer as price gouging. I was simply making the observation of thought pattern of a person I overheard in a liquor store.

    I won't fault anyone for trying to make a buck, but only making an observation.

    I still buy bombers and 750's often, but in this double dip recession (doesn't that sound delicious?) that is taking shape a perceived value is important.

    Cantillion for instance is worth the money to me.

    How about bottling some Super Kitty Fantastico? My perceived value for that beer would warrant the 22oz or 750 price point.

    A 9 dollar bomber of pale ale really makes me think about what I am doing with my money.

  14. Matt

    Good stuff.

    What would a 750 of SKF be worth? I think I might just bottle some up and see what the market will bear just as an economic experiment.

  15. Ted, I don't think it's Matt's argument that breweries are screwing people. The question is why does a bomber of beer cost more than a six pack of beer by volume? The six pack uses more glass plus a printed carrier plus six times the number of caps. It seems like six packs should be more.

    Personally, I like the idea of the bomber, they're easier to store and share and allow me to sample more varieties of beer. But even I don't understand why there's a premium on the format.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Darn typos...

    There are a couple things most likely driving bomber prices higher...

    (1) Economies of Scale. Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, etc. are so huge that their unit costs for a low volume SKU like a bomber is TINY compared to an outfit like Three Floyds. It's an apples to oranges comparison.

    (2) Demand. Just because someone paid $9 for a bomber doesn't mean the brewery is seeing an equal share of the sale. IF customer demand is high, some retailers will price product higher until they see resistance from customers to purchase. Shop around.

    (3) Value of Liquid. You did a great job pointing out that many breweries push limited release and seasonal beers to large formats. One of the reasons for this is less waste during filling. "Cap on Foam" isn't free, that foam is beer. Fewer caps equals less waste.

    (4) I don't think Indiana "gets" large format. It's a much slower moving SKU here then say California or Oregon. Time is Money and someone has to pay for that, like the customer.

  18. Another reason bombers could be higher is the money lost due to changes required on the bottling line to switch from 12-oz to 22-oz. For a large outfit like Sierra, who may have multiple bottling lines, there is no effect, but a smaller brewery is going to lose time.

  19. Thanks to Ted and Michael for weighing in. Its good to hear an industry response!

    Ted - any reason you picked 22 oz over 6-packs? Did you even have a choice or was it just what the equipment you had was suited for?

    On the brewery side, I can think of a few cons for 6-packs:

    1. 6-packs require more and faster packaging operations - putting the bottles into 6-pack holders, more labeling, faster throughput (faster line speed = less room for error). The bombers slower line speed may also reduce capital investment when puchasing packaging equipment.

    2. Higher cost for packaging materials. 6-pack holders, more caps, etc.

    3. Less room on label for info about beer (same government warnings must be printed on either label).

    4. The consumer must invest more to figure out if they like the beer or not. Even though a 6-pack might cost less per ounce, the potential consumer may not be willing to pay a considerable amount more for something they havent tasted before (and may not like).

  20. @southouse

    You just hit on what the author was trying to say. According to you, someone in the industry I take, six packs are actually a hindrance to brewers. So, why do consumers pay a premium to buy something that should cost less in glass, caps, packaging, bottling line, and should have a volume discount.

    Bombers look like a way to make a much wider margin per ounce.


  21. I'd like to throw Lagunitas as another example of a small craft brewery that charges the same per oz. regardless of format. Their Hop Stoopid is $4.50 to $4.99 in Chicago. They are not going out of business as a result. In fact, I think they are doing quite well.

    I've asked people very high up at Lagunitas about this practice and it was their opinion that the Lagunitas pricing model is something that could be followed by other brewers quite easily. There were no tricks or economies of scale involved. They priced based on the cost of the beer going into the bottle, and putting it in 12oz.,22oz. or 1,000oz bottles did not change that.