Monday, 11 July 2011

Bottling It


As I don't drink much bottled beer, I don't come across this situation very often, but it seems that bottled versions of draught beers are often sold stronger, sometimes significantly so. You will notice here that I say sold "stronger" as, inevitably, the beer will be brewed to a higher strength, then "liquored down" for the draught version. Watered down that is. Now I know of course that there are various reasons for this differentiation in strength, from both a practical and a marketing point of view, but it seems to me when a draught version is, say, 3.9% and the bottled version is around 4.8%, leaving the method of dispense aside, that you will have an entirely different drinking experience. In fact you may almost have entirely different drink.

Now it may be of course, even though they have the same name, that the bottled beer drinker knows this and in fact regards the drinks as entirely different. Or acceptable variations on a theme perhaps? Nor do I know whether drinkers of such bottles resort to the bottled version of the draught beer usually, or just sometimes, when they buy such things; or indeed, whether the brand loyalty of a cask beer drinker extends in any way to the equivalent bottle, though I'm sure marketing geeks would say they do. The world of the standard bottled beer is somewhat shrouded in mystery to me.  For all I know, bottled beer drinkers simply don't know or care about this aspect at all.

If I were Mudgie, who is interested in this kind of thing, I'd set up a poll, but I can't be bothered. Instead I'll just await comments.

27 comments:

HardKnott Dave said...

I think most bottled beer drinkers know and possibly even like the fact that they are stronger.

I agree it's a different experience, but then bottled beer is different, even when they are the same strength.

For me, and I know everyone is different, I sometimes plump for a stronger bottled beer after a couple of pints: the sheer volume being too much.

Cooking Lager said...

That's why cheap lager is a more honest drink. Any stronger version is called "export"

Curmudgeon said...

Yes, this is something I have remarked on in the past, and which seems to be getting more common. The biggest differential I have found is 0.7% in beers like Jennings Cumberland Ale and Old Speckled Hen.

I suspect in many cases there isn't a huge amount of overlap between the bottled and cask drinkers anyway, although possibly the person who normally drinks Beer X in bottle and comes across it on cask may feel a bit short-changed.

What poll question would you ask?

Tandleman said...

Mudgie: That's the bit I can't be bothered working out. (-;

Chris Hall said...

I've often wondered about this myself.

I know 'bottle-conditioned' ales tend to be stronger. I always thought this was due to yeast being in the bottle, ergo creating more alcohol in its secondary fermentation. Doesn't explain for non-bottle-conditioned bottled ales though.

Adnam's Broadside for example is vastly stronger bottled (6.3) than in cask (4.7 I think). In fact the cask version tastes very similar to Gunhill, which in bottles, is very similar to Broadside but tastes lower strength.

The mind, and tongue, boggles.

Owen said...

The explanation I've always assumed was that a higher alcohol content means a longer shelf life. A 3.8% beer won't keep very long in a bottle, but a 4.5% might keep for significantly longer.

Whether that's the actual reason or something I've made up is entirely debatable though.

tankard said...

...and of course some typically cask beers are brewed esp for the bottle. They are not the same brew in both cask and bottle. For example Adnams Bitter [bottled] is not the same beer as you get in a cask [I think it is their Extra], nor is Adnams [bottled] Broadside the same as the cask version. It is not Broadside, it is a totally different drink. When I asked why, Adnams said it's coz the marketing boys like the name.

Tandleman said...

Tankard: I was told the very same thing by a Marketing Manager of a substantial brewery very recently.

Chris Hall said...

Good insight Tankard.

As per usual, if in doubt, blame marketing!

Curmudgeon said...

I argued in this post that the differential stems from the fact that the two are increasingly appealing to different markets - at-home drinking is not just a carbon copy or imitation of pub drinking.

Neil, Eating isn't Cheating said...

Hobgoblin is 5.2% in the bottle, 4.5% on cask. They reduced it from 5% to 4.5% and its a fundamentally different beer. Still pretty good on cask but is now closer to being a normal session bitter as opposed to a richer, darker, stronger ruby ale.

When you're sat at home stronger bottles make more sense because you only have one or two in an evening. In the pub when you want to be able to sink 4 pints and still walk without a wobble between 4 and 5 is better, or higher abv's and have a few halfs.

The Hearty Goodfellow said...

Here's a mystery then -

Woodfordes Wherry.

Cask strength 3.8%.

Bottle strength 3.8%

And yet still two totally different drink experiences. Good one's, mind you, but totally different nonetheless.

But why and how?

Answers on a beer mat please!

RedNev said...

I can well believe brewers water down their beer for the cask version. The brewers at Tetley's told us last October that they routinely do that with their cask beers anyway.

Alyssa S said...

I think it's a different experience but I didn't know it was about the difference of strength. Interesting.. I wonder why! I've always preferred bottles because I like the way it tastes better, which I thought was due to the shape of the bottle when compared to a can, and the way it hits your mouth, but maybe I've been wrong this whole time!

Alyssa
coolproducts.com

Tandleman said...

RedNev - Your new avatar makes it seem as though you are looking at me through my letter box!

tom mann said...

I drink at home and the pub. The pub is often a session of 5 or 6 pints, around 4%. At home, I don't want that volume of liquid, and would rather take my time with a couple of higher strength beers, the same brand or nor. In the same way I don't drink spirits in the pub but will happily sip a neat rum at home. Two very different drinking environments requiring different strength drinks, for me at least.

John B said...

Our old friends at BrewDog have the widest differential I've come across. Riptide at 4.1 in cask and 8.0 in bottle or keg.
Seem to recollect John Keeling of Fuller's saying his beers were slightly stronger in bottle to improve body.

RedNev said...

TM: sadly, one of my few pleasures in life.

Righto! Off to the pub!

Birkonian said...

I've read somewhere that bottles beer should be slightly stronger than the cask version otherwise it tastes thinner. I can't recall the technical explanation.

Darren T said...

Here's one for you: bottled BrewDog RipTide Imperial Stout, 8% ABV. Draught BrewDog Riptide (sampled a few weeks back at The Angel), 3.9% ABV.

Surely with a difference that great they should call the draught version by a different name entirely?

Darren T said...

...and then I see John B's comment saying the same thing, which I somehow managed to miss completely when I read through. I'll get me coat...

Steve Lamond said...

Its also to do with the fact that at 4.5% you could drink a pint and still drive put people wouldn't risk it with something stronger. Lower ABV beers sell better in pubs, which is why hobgoblin was dropped in ABV recently. Strong bottled beers can also be split with other people whereas people feel their "manhood" might be questioned if they drink anythin gless than a full pint in a pub.

Mark said...

Ahh, interesting point. I guess I've always assumed that they are different recipes - one brewed for draught and one for bottle. Is this ever the case?

Steve Lamond said...

I assume it can be the case, especially for brewers who have enough capacity to brew a batch of beer solely for cask or bottle. I assume in most cases it will be the amount of malt that is adjusted to reduce the ABV and perhaps the relevant bittering hops quantity.
I think as long as the ABV is advertised correctly on the pump clip/ bottle label there is nothing wrong with the practice.

The worse practice is brewers releasing "new" beers which are just rebadged versions of other beers

Curmudgeon said...

"The worse practice is brewers releasing "new" beers which are just rebadged versions of other beers"

It does have the advantage of fooling tickers, though ;-)

And brewing is by no means the only industry in which producers bring out marginally tweaked versions of existing products as "special editions".

Curmudgeon said...

Anyway, I did a poll, see blog here.

beer body, LLC said...

Thank you for your intersting blog. We found it very helpful. For additional beer and fitness information please visit: www.beerandbody.com