It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, I was thinking about the outing we had the other night with all our colleagues here at
BeerNexus. You might remember - you did have more than your share - that we were ordering
pitchers of beer. Don't get me wrong. The beer was great, it's the use of pitchers that I'm now
concerned about. Think about it. Beer’s two worst enemies, light and oxygen, thrive in a
pitcher environment. Even more, the pitchers our beer was in were clear glass (and some
plastic) that had tons of surface area. I'm not even going to mention that off putting, huge
macro brewery logo on it.. In this day and age of proper glassware it seems blasphemous to
suggest such a crude vessel. You can’t drink KBS out of a pitcher, right?
There is also the variable of temperature regulation that becomes more challenging along with
a faster rate of carbonation coming out of solution when you use a pitcher. By the time we got
to the bottom of several of the pitchers a few of the beers were almost flat and clearly not at
their optimum serving temperature. If you're serious about beer this has to be a concern.
The fact that we had a variety of beers that ran the gamut from 4.5% to over 9% ABV also
brings me to a sort of moral dilemma. Needless to say group poured the bigger beers
judiciously but what about people who don't? That might explain why in many places they
simple will not serve high alcohol beer in pitchers. Let me put it to you in another way. Might it
not be irresponsible to serve such beers in such quantity? Look, if you're sitting at the bar and
enjoying a few pints the bartender keeps an eye on you. Drink too much and you're cut off.
When you're at a table with pitchers and pitchers no one is really watching how big an amount
you pour yourself and how often you do it.
Perception is major factor in my enjoyment of a beer. By that I mean the total drinking
experience. And that experience is not enhanced by anything that reminds me of the like of
Bud, Miller, and Coors. When I see a pitcher, regardless of what beer is in it, my mind
immediately sees swill from the big brands. Face it, you're not going to get a pitcher with a St.
Bernardus, Orval, or even Heady Topper logo.” Earlier I referenced the notion of proper
glassware. Drinking craft beer in a specific glass for that specific style. The “rules” say X beer
style must be poured into X glass directly from the tap. While some glasses are designed to
enhance aroma and temperature stability, it’s also kind of fun to drink fr with that brewery's
logo on it greatly adds to the drinking experience. A shaker pint with a Bud Lite logo simply
does not. In fact, it takes away.
Now Bill, before you start giving me that look, just remember I'm not really complaining. I'm just
trying to do everything possible to respect the fine craft beer that we all enjoy. It deserves it!
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next
Hey Gina, I'll say this, you never cease to surprise me with what you come up with. Of all things,
you're now complaining about pitchers. Don't worry, I'm here to solve this dilemma for you. Hey,
let me finish before you throw anything at me.
Let's start with your worry about light and oxygen ruining the beer. Of course you're right but
only in principle. In practice I've never seen a pitcher of beer last long enough for that ever to be
a concern (at least when we're out together). If you order a beer you drink it. You're logic would
ban clear pint glasses and put a time clock on every drinker. You lose that point.
By the way, did you ever consider that it's the finances of a pitcher is generally where it shines?
We sit down and agree upon a single beer. The proprietor deduces they can move more draft
beer (which generally yield a larger margin over cans/bottles) by pushing it in a greater volume.
The serving staff makes fewer trips for refills. We are able to pour a fresh glass at will. It’s a win-
win for all, right?
The average pitcher holds 60-64 oz. In essence we're basically talking about sharing a growler
Both equate to a bit over four pints. If we pay $16-$20 for a “growler” that's not bad so if we're
able to get a pitcher for that or less it's a deal! Most craft beer drinkers wouldn’t bat an eye at $5
pr $6 a pint so an incremental price tag shouldn’t offend.
Now take that logic one step further. You, I'm sure, agree that it's fine for a bar to sell a growler
of a high ABV beer to a customer. You also likely agree that it's okay for a pub to serve 3-4 pints
to that beer to a patron. So why be concerned with overpouring from a pitcher? This is where the
service staff’s role in assessing the sobriety of their customers becomes an important reality. It's
not just the person behind the taps it's the job of the entire staff to make sure everyone is
drinking in a safe manner. That liability comes with the territory for all bars. And of course, do not
discount personal responsibility when those pitchers come to the table. Indeed that should be
number one. Don't deprive me of the benefits of a pitcher because someone might not be able
to control themselves.
I agree with you that the standard pitcher isn’t very fancy or appealing. You don’t think of a
delicate kolsch or malty scotch ale swirling around the classic clear plastic pitcher. But so what?
You're not drinking out of the pitcher you know. There is nothing stopping a place from doling
out a couple tulips or challis glasses with said pitche. And if you remember that's exactly what
happened when we all went out last week. The beer may have come in a pitcher with a Bud
Super Bowl logo but we weren't given red Solo cups to drink it from!
So when I sum up notions of quality, price, ethics, and self-image I'm okay with the pitcher of craft
beer as on option. I think in the right place, at the right time it fine. Sitting down with a some
friends, it saves a few trips to the bar or your server’s feet. I admit it could be a challenge to
manage temperature outdoors during warm months but this something you should take into
consideration when ordering.
By the way, I'm not even going to mention you always seem to give yourself the biggest pour
when we order a couple of pitchers to share.
Here's looking at you, kid! See you next month.