A Few Words on … “two-ounce culture”

The way of the future?
The way of the future?

We live in a time of parity. Or, at least, one of constant distraction. Not everything may have our utmost attention, but it’ll sure as hell fight for it.

Are we stuck in the era of a “two-ounce culture?” Are we, as a people, fixated on the idea that mass consumption equals enjoyment? Is it simply a matter of society today? They’re questions raised by Rob Fullmer over at the Beer PHXation Blog and echoed by Stan Hieronymus.

Whether it’s art or news or beer, there are plenty of options to be had. Now more than ever, we’re taking advantage of it.

But what I believe Rob and Stan are ultimately getting at is this: is a two-ounce culture a good or bad thing? Do we put the most value in collecting experiences?

When it comes to beer, variety is not a problem. With a 125-year high mark for the number of operating breweries in America, a shiny and new IPA or sour beer is easier to find than ever. So, did we become a two-ounce culture because of such wide variety of beer, or did a wide variety of beer turn us into a two-ounce culture?

Where does our value of a two-ounce culture come from?
As Untappd users, we’re rewarded with badges for the number of beers we try – both in brand and style. Beer festival attendance has steadily increased, with sellouts becoming the norm in a day or even 45 minutes, as attendees clamor to try as many two-ounce samples as possible. As a beer blogger, I’m rewarded with (potentially) more page views based on the variety of reviews I write. But as someone who loves beer, are we rewarded by seeking the latest and greatest instead of stopping to smell the hops once in a while?

Harking back to a recent “Session” post comparing the definition and behavior of a “drinker” vs. a “brewer,” I’d view a drinker as someone more satisfied with drinking the same brew several times in a row (16-ouncers?). A “brewer” – as someone who is more invested in the product of beer – may derive great enjoyment from trying a variety (two-ouncers?). The difference? The amount of satisfaction one receives from behavioral choices. If we’re constantly rewarded for our “two-ounce” behavior, or seen as more well-rounded because of it, do we make rational decisions when it comes to our choices of consumption? Perhaps only some of the time.

Why do we care so much now?
While craft beer brands may be able to get people to try their beer (two-ouncers), the biggest difficulty is to get them to convert to strict brand loyalty (16-ouncers). By talking to our parents, grandparents or anyone else who refuses to budge from their PBR perch, we know that many people who grew up drinking at a certain time are perfectly happy with singular brand loyalty. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

However, the beer business has changed drastically. More of us have become “portfolio drinkers” looking to find the latest and greatest new fad to try. This feels natural, given the large uptick in breweries and beer options. So, do we blame the novelty of beer, or just practical business sense? Blue Moon used to be a singular beer, but now it’s a whole brand with a full line of seasonal and specialty brews. There was a market for an expanded line, so Blue Moon expanded … or did Blue Moon expand to enhance that market? Tricky stuff.

What can we do about it?
As beer drinkers, we’re constantly bombarded with the paradox of choice. Ever go to your local bottle shop and find that you’ve killed 30 minutes wandering the aisles with nothing in your basket? What the issue of a two-ounce culture comes down to, really, is the independent goals and wants of each person. What makes you happy? That should be the most important thing.

It’s been shown that when given lots of options, people tend to drift toward a large selection (two-ouncers) with which they can try a variety of things. But when it’s time to commit (16-ouncers), people are less likely to make a hard-and-fast decision when presented with a plethora of options.

We’re a fickle species, aren’t we?

I kid, but this doesn’t necessarily mean being a two-ouncer is bad. Perhaps you’re just giving in to human nature. If the two-ounce culture is ultimately based on finding a path to happiness, then so be it. To each their own, after all.

Are you a two-ouncer or a 16-ouncer? What do you think?

+Bryan Roth


10 thoughts on “A Few Words on … “two-ounce culture”

  1. I like to think I’m a 22ozer. While I enjoy trying every beer possible 2 oz doesn’t let you experience the full depth of any brew. The reason we’ve reached this point IMO is the number of breweries out there making the same style. I have neither the time, nor money, to try 22oz of every IPA from all 2,000 and growing breweries. So I head to beer fests and try 2 oz of as many as possible and make notes about what to try later and what to forget.

    1. A 22 ouncer! How could I have neglected that. Well played.

      You hit on a great point – there’s only so much you can do with a style, so with lots of options of the same thing, perhaps this is why we have so many weird or “extreme” beers becoming more of a norm. How else will a brewery stand apart unless they pack the kitchen sink into the brewing process?

  2. I am a 16-ouncer , though fickle . I tire of my favorite beer and have to switch , sometimes fairly often , A beer -philanderer ? But , as you suggest , we should do what we like .

    1. Another good way to put it. I don’t think I could ever stay true for more than a couple beers in a row, after that, my palate simply craves something new – beer or not.

    1. Thanks very much for including me as you add to the conversation. As you point out, I think it’s something many people think of, but may not really ruminate on it.


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