Saturday, 24 October 2020

When is Small too Small?.

 I can remember years ago, when I was very young - so that's very many years ago - watching TV at home and seeing the likes of Minder with Terry McCann drinking a can of Carlsberg, or perhaps Alf Garnett's idle son-in-law drinking cans of Watney's Brown Ale and wondering about the small cans.  To my certain knowledge, in the 1970s, no Scottish brewer produced, for the domestic market anyway, such small cans. We just didn't see them at all. All our cans were 440 ml. Small cans were an odd English aberration, only seen on the small screen and as such we disregarded them. In fact the only English beer I really recall, was pint bottles of Whitbread Pale Ale, which somehow had an almost papal dispensation to be sold in Scotland.  They were everywhere and in fact I often drank them myself.

Fast-forward many decades later and the small can was re-invented by the craft beer movement, when some bright spark thought that bottles were no longer the biz. God knows why, they did - I imagine copycatting the Americans - but the chosen size was the small 330 ml can.  Now I suppose looking at it from the point of view of the seller, they were different, handy and could be sold at a premium - which I actually reckon was the main point in doing it.  This in turn was fairly understandable too. Often the beers were strong and a smaller vessel and higher price could therefore be justified.  Also, I believe the kit was more readily available too, so all serene then.

Of course, nothing stands still. The larger can has made a strong re-appearance in the craft beer sector, oddly to some, often at the higher alcohol end of the market. Now that's fair enough too, as some of the stronger stuff is probably best to share or, if not that, to be sipped reverentially, over a couple of hours by a single drinker.  So far, so good.

Now where this scene throws up an issue to my mind, is when you have what I'd call a "supping" beer - others more likely to call a session beer, is sent out in small cans. I know it happens with all types  of beer, but when it happens in the standard to premium lager sector, it just doesn't seem right.  I wrote here about how impressed I am with Camden Hells. On my recent self-isolation, we had a little shopping done for us by a relative. Now in the circumstances of being done a favour, it doesn't seem right to be too picky, so my request for Camden Hells was completed, not as I'd hoped by 660ml bottles, but a four-pack of 330ml cans. Now I haven't been able to compare costs, but it isn't that which bothered me - though it would be an interesting comparison - but the fact that once you have poured the beer into a glass and taken the first swig, you find it has almost gone. Put simply, it isn't big enough.

So is it just me?  It seems not. I asked the Twitterati and they seem to agree. Here's what they said:

Well that's all I have to say really. So how about it Camden? Can we have bigger cans of Hells please? It's what the punters want.

Do keep up the 660 ml bottles. They are fab.  Also am I wrong in thinking Cloudwater led the charge for bigger cans?

 I also hope to see more Camden Hells on tap up North. As long as the quality stays as it is at the moment, that would be a good thing.

8 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

Most US beers are sold in 355 ml (12 oz) bottles or cans, which is where they got the idea from.

It has the twofold advantage of achieving a higher price/volume ratio and also avoiding looking fuddy-duddy, which is a key consideration for craft brewers.

Craft to some extent seems to have embraced 440 ml cans, but it's still considered anathema to put anything in a 500 ml size.

The problem I have is that you always feel you need two!

Phil said...

500 ml cans have gone out of fashion, but they definitely were a thing (mostly for pintable beers). I'm pretty sure it was Cloudwater who spearheaded the move to 440 (for pretty much everything).

Langbard said...

My local GK pub has just taken Camden Hells off the bar and replaced it by their in house pale Icebreaker. Shame as it one of the few things I liked in there.

Paul Bailey said...

I must admit I was surprised, and also slightly appalled when 330ml cans re-appeared on the shelves. I don't think anyone south of the border, missed them when they vanished, so why on earth bring them back?

A retrograde step thought I, akin to returning to pounds, shillings and pence, imperial measures or leaving the European Union!

Mudge is right in his summary; not just on the price front, but with the conclusion that one is not enough!

Cooking Lager said...

For many beers where cold is best, smaller portions have less time to warm up. You can sink a few cold ones.

For the flat warm brown pish beloved of beards, might as well package it in bucket sized cans.

Robin Oldfield said...

330 ml cans are way to small in my opinion, equating to little more than half a pint. They have gone before you have started enjoying the drink. Worse still are those little bottles of French beer that only contain 250ml. On the larger cans, only Deya seem to prefer the 500ml over the 440ml. Some of the mass produced drinks such as Stella are now sold in 568ml (one pint) format cans. There just doesn't seem to be any coherence to these measures

Robin Oldfield said...

Also the Ghost Drinker had similar thoughts before shutting up shop on his beer blog
http://ghostdrinker.blogspot.com/2016/12/thornbridge-and-tale-of-smaller-beers.html

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