For many years beer in cans was thought of as “grandpa’s cheap beer” but more and more craft breweries are turning to canned beer. The trend began in the US back in 2002, when Colorado based Oskar Blues Brewery replaced bottles by cans. Today nearly 31 percent of all packaged craft beer (about 18 percent of all craft beer including draught) in the US is already sold in cans.
“The fact that smaller, more can-heavy brewers were on average growing faster than brewers a notch or two larger, means that craft would have seen a shift toward cans even if no one changed their packaging decisions at all,” says Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association.
"Craft beer in a can is the next step in the evolution of beer,” says Chad Melis, Marketing Director, Oskar Blues Brewery. “It’s just a better package in general,” adds brewmaster Ben Schonfeld, who opened Benny Brewing Co. in Hanover Twp., New Jersey, more than a year ago.
“There’s no UV light on the beer like there would be on a bottle. You could take cans a lot more places like sporting events, golf courses and parks where you can’t have glass,” Schonfeld says. In addition cans are easier to store, transport and cool, they are super-lightweight and can easily be recycled (like bottles). Last but not least they have a huge surface to display the name the logo and any information the brewery wants and the customer needs.
According to Paul Jones, Co-founder of Cloudwater Brew Co. from Manchester, UK, who is a big supporter of cans, they do have a few key disadvantages though: low acceptance in high end restaurants who are deeply averse to putting a can on their dining tables; poor tolerance of pressure (compared to bottles); and how to protect such a large aperture from O2 and bacteria ingress during filling.
But cans are not only popular amongst craft brewers in the US and the UK. Also Irish craft beer drinkers prefer beer in cans. An off-license in Irland’s capital Dublin is already selling more than 95 percent of its craft beers in cans.
“For people on their way home, cycling or getting on the Luas [the Dublin tram line] they’re lighter to carry than bottles,” a spokesman for the independent off-licence says. And because they’re tight for space in the shop, they’re easier for stacking and keeping refrigerated. The shop stocks already more than 50 different craft beers and is going to increase the number, once the new fridge arrives.
Oskar Blues Brewing Holding Co., the holding company of the pioneer of craft beer in cans made even a step further. The tenth largest craft brewing group in the US, which consists of Colorado’s Oskar Blues Brewery, Michigan’s Perrin Brewing, Tampa’s Cigar City, and Utah’s Salt Lake Brewing, has changed its name to CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective to reflect more the unique property of its breweries. (inside.beer, 29.11.2017)
Even in a country like Germany, where a deposit of €0.25 on cans and other non-refillable beverage containers was imposed already back in 2003, beer in cans experiences a renaissance. Before 2003, more than 20 percent of all packaged beer in Germany was sold in cans. Today this figure is only about five percent. People close to the matter see a realistic chance that German brewers, especially the larger ones, will double that figure again to about 10 percent within the next five to eight years.
However, German craft brewers are still shunning cans but Stone Brewing, which was in September 2016 the first American craft brewery to open up a facility in Europe, already sells a large proportion of its beer produced in Berlin, Germany, in cans. It needs to be seen if other craft breweries will follow this example.