Home' Brewers Guardian Digital Magazine : September 2013 Contents his supplier, Rexam, delivers the cans “per
truckload” as a minimum order, which
sometimes means they end up with far
more stock than is required.
“Rexam is very helpful in that it offers
to hold inventory for us from time to time,
but storage space can be an issue,” he
notes. “The pallets that cans are supplied
on are as tall as the trucks themselves.”
Pencilling it out
Like Medvec, Brad Blaser of Fort George
Brewery in Astoria, Oregon also has to order
cans by the entire truckload. Furthermore,
Blaser says brewers are required to design
and print logos on cans in large batches,
while labels for bottles can be printed one
at a time, if necessary.
“Buying and printing cans costs more
than buying bottles, and a greater upfront
investment is required,” he explains.
There are also other economic consideations to weigh up,
such as whether an in-house canning line is a worthwhile
investment. Blaser says that in recent years, short-run can-
ning lines have become available, lowering start-up costs from
about $500,000 to closer to $100,000.
That lower price point made all the difference to Fort George
when three years ago it decided to move beyond only selling
draught beer. According to Blaser, beer cans are also cheaper
and easier to ship than bottles – filled metal weighs less than
filled glass, packs neatly and compactly onto pallets, and
For those brewers that cannot afford the outlay of a can-
ning line, companies like Pat Hartman’s Mobile Canning are a
“We show up at the brewery facility when their beer is ready
to package,” Hartman says. “We do a canning line install in
the morning, and package it there. We can come and go in a
single day, subject to volume and other requirements.”
Depending on the brewery, Hartman says Mobile Canning
is able to output between 100 and 800 cases per day. The
company is also able to buy and store cans in the volumes that
manufacturers require. “It’s hard for a small mobile canner to
get started, but we can offer bulk purchasing power,” he adds.
The business model has proved so successful in Colorado
that Hartman and business partner Ron Popma have set up a
second company, Mobile Canning Systems, to license affiliates
across the US. So far, 17 other mobile canners have signed
on, and Hartman expects as many as six more affiliates by
Cans could well be the vessel of choice for craft beer in the
future, but none of its advocates suggest that it should be
served in anything less than good-old traditional glassware.
“Because our beers are highly hopped and very aromatic,
we do encourage people to pour it, so you can get your nose
into a glass,” says Blaser at Fort George.
And some concede that there are occasions where bottled
craft beer will always prevail.
“For your day-to-day drinking, the can is the better ves-
sel,” says Hartman. “But for beers that are oak-aged for 12
or 18 months, whether it be in whiskey or in wine casks, you
wouldn’t want to put that into a can.
“Those 750ml glass bottles that are caged and corked and
that you pull out at Thanksgiving like a bottle of wine? There’s
still a place for that.”
Courtney Sherwood is a professional business journalist and
an amateur home brewer from Portland, Oregon. Additional
reporting by Noli Dinkovski.
Some US craft brewers are taking the canned
revolution one stage further by launching cans
in innovative new forms:
• Oskar Blues, which claims to be the first brewery
in the United States to ‘hand can’ beers, recently
partnered with Sun King Brewery to create Chaka,
a limited release Belgian-style ale that was pack
aged in a resealable aluminium bottle, spurring a
flurry of puns. The two breweries called their joint
effort a ‘CANlaboration’, while Brewers’ Association
Craft Beer Program director Julia Herz dubbed it a
‘cottle,’ combining the words can and bottle.
• Boston Beer Company cited Oskar Blues’ earlier
innovations when it introduced its own non-standard
can in March. According to brewery founder Jim
Koch, the Sam Adams can comes with a wider
lid and repositioned opening to improve air flow
while drinking and accentuate aromas.
Cans take a
Lift Bridge: just one of an estimated 338 American craft brewers using cans
Chaka: a collaboration between Oskar Blues and Sun King Brewery
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