Take a walk down the beer aisle, and you might notice a change on the shelves.
Where once the 6-pack was dominant, the 4-pack is growing in popularity. So, when did this trend start, and why has it become so common?
Although it might seem an issue of downsizing, the 4-pack is closely associated with the rise of the craft brewery.
From the early 2010s, the 4-pack has gradually become the preferred method of distributing unusual craft brews.
The 4-pack might be popular, but it’s still a little controversial among craft beer fans. Let’s take a look at when the trend started, and why it’s likely here to stay.
When Did Beer 4-Pack Become So Popular?
It’s impossible to pinpoint the beginning of most trends, but the beer 4-pack certainly seems to have grown in popularity over recent years.
Most trace the trend back to the early 2010s, and the rise of the craft brewer.
Specifically, the release of the Heady Topper IPA by The Alchemist.
The Heady Topper became a sensation very quickly, with beer enthusiasts queuing outside the brewery to get their hands on the 8% imperial IPA, which was sold in packs of 4 16oz cans.
Craft breweries began releasing their own creations in the 4-pack, and the trend took off.
Whether the 4-pack took over because of the potential benefits of the size, or simply as a chance to piggyback on the popularity of the Heady Topper, that’s for you to decide.
Of course, the 4-pack might seem ubiquitous, but it’s far from the only option on the market.
While craft breweries may have adopted the 4-pack, the 6-pack remains the standard among the big name brewers.
Why Did Beer 4-Packs Become So Popular?
Exactly when the 4-pack popularity started is tough to say, but whenever it started, the trend seems set to stay. So, why, exactly, are 4-packs becoming the norm?
There are a few potential reasons why 4-packs seem to have taken off for craft brewers:
Larger Sized Cans
While you are getting less with a 4-pack compared to a 6-pack, each individual can often holds more.
Instead of the standard 12oz, most 4-packs use 16oz cans. While 6 12oz cans total 72oz of beer overall, 6 16oz cans would be 96oz.
That might not sound like a problem to many of us, but for the casual consumer, this might be more than you want.
Particularly if it’s your first time trying a craft brew, but I’ll delve deeper into that reason later.
So, why these bigger cans, anyway? Why not a 6-pack of the standard smaller can?
Although there’s no way of knowing for sure why craft brewers chose the larger can, it’s possible that advertising plays a part.
Bigger cans offer more room for eye-catching designs, so they’re more likely to find an audience.
Another possible reason is that craft breweries often sell single cans for those interested in sampling without commitment.
One 16oz can often feels like a better choice than 2 12oz cans — you’re getting a good drink, without having to commit to a second bottle.
Exceptional craft brews can be in high demand, and enthusiasts know what it’s like to travel to try your favorite beer.
As craft breweries often operate with smaller amounts, distributing a 6-pack might mean only a very limited audience have the chance to try your product.
With the 4-pack, beer can be distributed to more places.
If you’ve ever been frustrated buying a 4-pack instead of a 6-pack, the 4-pack might be the reason you have access to the beer in the first place!
Craft beers can come in some unusual flavors. Even the most adventurous palates among us are likely to have looked at a craft beer and wondered: do I really want to try that?
If you’re debating whether a smoked IPA sounds like a good idea, you’re more likely to go for a 4-pack than a 6-pack.
A 6-pack can seem like quite a commitment when you aren’t sure of the flavor.
The 4-pack, on the other hand, allows you to sample, and you won’t have 5 beers hanging around if you decide you don’t like the taste.
And if you do like the taste, but perhaps want to save it for the right occasion, a 4-pack is better. Fewer cans to drink means less time to go stale.
Of course, if it turns out you love a smoked IPA, then you might regret only investing in a 4-pack.
But the opportunity to sample is likely to have played a major role in the rise of the 4-pack in the craft beer market.
Craft brews tend to clock in at a higher ABV than your standard beer.
This might be one of the reasons for the 4-pack over the 6-pack. One 16oz can of a higher ABV craft beer is similar to 2 12oz cans of a lower ABV regular beer.
While this is a fairly common theory, it’s also a flawed one: why sell a stronger beer in a larger can?
Because Everyone Else Is Doing It
Craft brews are associated with 4-packs now, and no one wants to be the brewery to miss the trend.
When consumers see 4-packs of 16oz cans, they tend to think of the craft brewery.
Is The Beer 4-Pack Here To Stay?
Whatever the reason for it, the 4-pack seems to be here to stay.
At least, until another trend comes along to usurp it! The 4-pack has proved popular for craft breweries, allowing them to distribute their beers to a wider audience, who are potentially more likely to try the smaller pack.
Even if the 4-pack is here to stay, the 6-pack isn’t going anywhere!
Beer 4-packs have been associated with the rise of the craft brewery, and have become increasingly common over the past decade.
As the 4-pack has proved to be so popular for craft breweries, it’s unlikely to be leaving our shelves soon!