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Assessing the New Beer Bottle

Welcome to One Man Focus Group, where obsessive critic Paul Lukas evaluates tomorrow's cultural detritus today. 

The writer Nora Ephron famously said she felt bad about her neck. The Dutch brewer Heineken International has apparently been feeling the same way.

Or at least that's the reasonable conclusion one can draw from the new bottle for the brewer's flagship product, Heineken beer. After decades of being packaged in a somewhat squat, short-necked bottle, Heineken has now joined the ranks of the long-necks. The beer's new 12-ounce bottle, which debuted in select markets last September and rolled out nationwide in January, is an inch and a quarter taller and slightly narrower, making it similar in height and girth to a long-neck Budweiser bottle.

Historical accounts of early bottled beer are fairly sketchy, but Heineken's new package is the latest iteration of a bottling culture that dates back at least to the 17th century. Visually speaking, the new package is still identifiably Heineken: The bottle is the familiar shade of green, and the label graphics have undergone such subtle revisions that only the most dedicated design geeks will notice. As for the longer neck, One Man Focus Group likes it. The old design always felt too stubby, too stuffy. The new one looks suitably sleek but not trendy. In short, it looks like what we normally think of as a beer bottle. And intense research at OMFG HQ indicates that the new design has had no appreciable effect on the product's flavor.

Still, Heineken may have overplayed its hand with one of the revisions. The new bottle includes an "embossed thumb groove," supposedly to encourage consumers to hold the bottle at an optimal position. This seems a bit Beer for Dummies, no? Like, if you need to tell your customers how to hold a bottle of beer, they probably shouldn't be allowed to drink to begin with.

But if you ignore the thumb groove, this facelift seems innocuous enough. Too bad Nora Ephron isn't with us anymore—she would have made the perfect celebrity spokesperson.

Do you know of a new product, service, design, or phenomenon that deserves a closer look? Send tips, samples, press releases, and best intentions here.