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Hophead: Is Bigger Really That Much Better?

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This week, Sigel's announced that it is taking early orders for a dozen 6-liter bottles of Unibroue's La Fin Du Monde golden ale. Catch is, these collector's items come at the eyebrow-raising (or unibrow-raising) price of $219.99 a bottle. And that's a discount: the "regular price," according to Sigel's, is $249.99. One ebay seller is even asking $299.99--plus shipping!

Such an extravagant price would be more understandable if this were some rare, ultra-limited brew. But La Fin Du Monde is relatively easy to find. In fact, you can generally pick it up at Central Market and specialty wine and beer stores for as little as $6.99 for a 750-ml corked bottle.

No doubt it's a lovely ale. A deceptively drinkable tripel (9 percent ABV), it's a rowdy, bubbly Belgian-style (from Quebec) brew that's equally malty, yeasty and citrus-hopped. If Leffe and Duvel had a love child, it might taste something like La Fin Du Monde.

And yet ... one could buy eight of the Champagne-style bottles to get six liters of the same beer for as little as $55.92. Why would anyone pay nearly four times that amount for a single bottle?

Hophead turned to Sigel's Beer Buyer Bruce Calhoun for the answer to that question.

​ "It's just like wine," Calhoun answers. "The bigger the bottle, the better it ages. It has something to do with the amount of air that can get to it."

Along with the potential to cellar for more than a decade, part of the appeal is that it's a collectible novelty item. When Sigel's offered six 9-liter bottles of Piraat tripel (for a mere $294.99) earlier this summer, they had no problem selling them all. Some of the buyers said they would age them, while others were beer clubs with plans to pop them open in short order. Despite the considerably higher per-ounce price of these huge-format brews, beer geeks are all over them. In fact, three of the six Piraat buyers have already contacted Calhoun about the 6-liter La Fin Du Monde bottles.

The demand for craft beers has spiked in the past two or three years, Calhoun says, making these big-bottle offers successful. And while he doesn't have the next Methuselah- or Salmanazar-sized beer lined up yet, Calhoun is already making inquiries.

You could certainly impress your beer-loving pals with one of the beers at your next party. Better yet, age it a few years and pop it open for a special occasion--December 21, 2012 seems perfectly fitting (and check out the unibrows in that video--eerie coincidence!). Either way, contact Calhoun at 214-350-1271 or by e-mail to reserve one.

As for City of Ate, we're on a blogger's budget. We'll stick with the 750-ml bottles.

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