Much has been said about the large format beer (also known as bombers) many brewers use for special and regular releases. Some is considered negative by passing craft beer drinkers: It’s too much beer for one sitting! If it’s a one-off, what if I don’t like it? The alcohol content is too high to enjoy! The prices are too high (especially if you are a bar or restaurant that serves bottles)!
This has led to many breweries cutting back on many of them (at least on a regular basis)–retail shelves used to be crowded with American craft bombers but now many are sticking to 6-packs and transferring their former large formats to 4-packs (Southern Tier Crème Brûlée is one example).
There’s also the plight of who I’ll call “the collector.” There are quite a few of these people in the marketplace, waiting for special releases from popular breweries. They’ll call multiple outlets to gather as many of these bombers as they can, leaving few for the people who would actually enjoy them for the first time. Some do it to trade these for bottles with out-of-state friends to get beers they can’t get locally, or they do it to *GASP* sell them online for a profit. These folks have forced many outlets to set extreme bottle limits such as 1 per person or group. (Although they sometimes send their friends or significant others in to do their dirty work for them.) I will say from personal experience that it is nice to snag one of these from time to time… It’s like you’ve unlocked a special achievement in your Craft Beer Life Game!
All this hubbub may have soured you on using so much precious time to search for and buy special-release large format brews, but don’t give up on them just yet! There are a few breweries putting out excellent beer styles in bombers that won’t break the bank. Lagunitas, for example, may be well known for their 6-packs like Sucks and Maximus, but they also routinely bottle their limited and unlimited release beer in affordable bombers–styles like Maximus IPA, Coffee Stout, Hop Stoopid and Wilco Tango Foxtrot… Then there is the reliable Stone Brewing with their ever affordable Arrogant Bastard Ale–even some of their special releases like Smoked Porter and Enjoy By don’t go much above 10 buckaroos. Many Belgian bombers like Gulden Draak and Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde don’t go higher than $13 if you want to try some foreign flare.
Many of these are excellent alternatives to those beers you see your snob friends posting in their social media circles… If you’re still hung up on finding those higher-end bombers, just hang around the brewery itself or seek out your friendly neighborhood ABC rep…
Good Luck & Happy Hunting!
James Beaver, beer consultant – Lake Buena Vista