Pro Bottles: The case for serving bottles at your wedding bar
If you're unsure of whether to choose bottles or kegs, this post is for you. As is this one. Both posts delve into the debate of whether to serve bottles or kegs of beer for your wedding reception bar. I have thoughts about both, but this post is dedicated to the case for the bottle. It's an ode to the bottle. (And with that, I just wrote Toby Keith's next song title.)
Cost of Bottled Beer at a Wedding
The cost of bottled beer is generally going to be higher, because you’re paying for the packaging- bottle, cap, label, box. The exceptions are if you plan to have a really intimate wedding where even a small keg would create waste or you’re really wanting to offer a wide variety. In those two cases buying by the bottle allows you to make selections by multiples of 6 or 12 instead of 55 ( the keg size we typically recommend for Weddings.) Buy by the case at a warehouse store and you can help offset the cost further, but it will limit your flavors. Buy direct from a brewery if possible for a larger variety at a fair price.
Quantity Considerations for Beer at Receptions
A lot of factors determine how much beer you’ll go through at your event, including time of day, temperature, menu, formality of the event, and where your bridal party attended college...Jokes aside, it varies considerably, but a decent estimate is that 20% of the drinks consumed at your wedding will be beers or ciders (if you’re also serving Cocktails) and 35% will if you’re only serving beer and wine. For smaller events, 20% of the total will not be a lot of drinks, and even a smaller keg would give you a lot of wasted leftovers, and so bottles will be the right choice.
Variety availability and practicality
If offering your guests a wide variety of beer choices is important to you, it’s more easily achieved when serving bottles and cans. You can offer a big selection without overdoing the quantity of servings. However, I recommend sticking with 3-5 choices of beer and ciders maximum. As a professional event bartender I've learned that a tightly curated menu that can please all guests without a lot of waste/ leftovers or hemming and hawing from indecisive folks (like me, this is so me) when they get to the front of the line and are greeted by a giant, restaurant sized list of options. But, if that’s your thing, go for the bottle.
Another thing to consider is what varieties come canned/bottled vs kegged, especially when it comes to seasonal, small-run, and out of state brews. Maybe your favorite microbrewery doesn't bottle their beer yet, and you really want to drink their stuff at your wedding. You'll have to buy a keg in that case, and then you should probably commit to drafting all of your beer to keep things streamlined. Or the opposite may be true, and you love a beer from out of state that cans their product but you can't find their kegs available at local retailers.
Ease of Service for Bottled Beer at Event Bars
If you hired a rookie bartender or a regular human posing as bartender for the day, please buy bottles. It’s really hard to mess up opening and pouring a beer bottle and it’s very easy to mess up drafting. Additionally, if your wedding is in a hard to reach spot like a mountain top or you don’t want the expense or trouble of setting up a draft system, bottles are your easy out.
Beer Bottles Feel Good
We must accept that human beings have a deep and complex inner psychology that plays into the most minute of activities, including holding a bottle of beer vs. a cup. From the time we were small many of us grew up watching grandpa and dad (and maybe mom, hey why not!) take swigs from a bottle. We have memories associated with our first beer, and it most likely was not a draft pour in a cup. It came with a crack of a can's pull tab or the pop of a bottle. You enthusiastically clinked the neck of the glass bottle in a raucous "cheers!" There is just something about a long neck bottle in your hand, and in the hands of your guests, that takes you back to the good ole days.