In the olden days, you used to save money as the packaging size for an item got larger. Just think about Costco and Sam’s Club–the entire model of these stores is built around the idea that people will buy products in bulk if they’re able to save on their cost per ounce. This was once true of beer as well: as the package got larger, whether it was a bomber or a growler, the price got cheaper. Today, that’s not the case at all. Almost across the board, you’ll pay a cheaper price per ounce when buying a six-pack than when purchasing a bomber or growler. So what gives? How did these large format bottles become such a rip-off?
In large part, both craft beer makers and consumers are to blame for this reversal in per ounce savings. As craft beer has become more popular, the romanticism behind the beverage and the packaging that holds it has grown. Showing up with a large bottle of beer now doesn’t seem cheap or hobo-ish, it seems dignified and refined. It is much more acceptable to place a large bottle on the dinner table – just as one would with a bottle of wine – than a bunch of cans or twelve ounce bottles. It’s a look that helps legitimize beer as a beverage just as worthy for pairing with serious cuisine as fine wine.
In addition, large packaging also allows for collectability. Beers in large format containers are viewed as being more special and rare compared to their six-pack brethren, which suggests that there’s a scarcity component to their availability.
All this means that craft beer sellers are now able to sell Bombers that were once sold at prices cheaper per ounce than 6-packs, at prices that are sometimes now double that of a 6-pack’s price per ounce. And for the most part, consumers are pretty OK with it.
To witness this complacency, just visit the beer message boards. You’ll find threads where a brave soul will try and shed light on the fleecing, only to have the rest of the community berate that person for even bringing it up in the first place. The same will probably happen to this article.
But as true craft beer fans, we shouldn’t just be cheerleaders. We should be able to say when something is not OK, and in this case, getting ripped off isn’t cool. That said, if you’re aware that you’re getting ripped off, and you’re OK with it – like many of the message board defenders – then good for you. But just know that when you buy that beer in its larger container, you’re paying more for it than if you just stuck to the six pack. With this information, more frugal shoppers might change their purchase behavior and the industry might just correct the price differential.