Yep, that's right. You read the title correctly.
Our Industry is experiencing a craft beer can revolution that is rapidly sweeping the nation. Many people who are not already exposed to this idea seem to think it's crazy. Many folks even associate cans with dirt-cheap beer. Well, let's face it - that is pretty close to the truth until recently. Most of the massive macro-breweries have canned their beer since the beginning of time. Canning is cheap, effective, easily manufactured and very predictable. Therefore, cans are an obvious packaging choice for the big guys to maximize their profit margins while putting out a consistent American lager known so well by the masses.
However, let's take a quick look at the history of canning.
Since the 19th century, cans have almost always had a place in the beer industry. Canned beer first made its debut on Jan. 24, 1935, by the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company (partnered with the American Can Company), delivering more than 2,000 cans of beer to drinkers in Richmond, Va. This was actually a test run to see if people liked the idea of beer in a can. It turns out that 91 percent of the drinkers approved of the beer, giving Krueger the go-ahead for further canned beer production.
Canning beer was attempted pre-Prohibition in 1909 by the same canning company; however, it was unsuccessful. Due to Prohibition, they weren't able to try again until 1933. Finally, two years of research allowed for the American Can Company to have a successful run, creating a pressurized can with an inner coating that prevented beer reacting with the tin container.
Unlike bottled beer, canned beer didn't require the consumer to pay a deposit. Cans were easier to stack, faster to fill and took less time to chill due to the heat transfer properties of the metal. Canned beer was an instant hit. Canned beer exploded even more with World War II because U.S. brewers were shipping beer to our troops overseas. Unfortunately, after the war ended, national breweries took advantage of the mass production and distribution capabilities of the can, consolidated their power and dominated the local breweries.
Even though cans account for about half of all U.S. beer sales, surprisingly not all of these sales come from the big breweries. Many craft breweries are integrating canning into their packaging portfolio. There have been a few equipment manufacturers that have developed small canning lines, affordable to the small brewers. Fortunately, the can manufacturers also offer smaller minimum orders for brewers, as well, making canning affordable to the smaller local guys.
As we've mentioned in the past, for us, it isn't all about the profit margins, but rather the craft and quality. If cans didn't offer the best quality for a packaged product, craft breweries wouldn't downgrade to a lesser container. Believe it or not, cans can guarantee a higher purity of taste by preventing light damage, as well as oxidation, the two most likely beer spoilers.
You may still be thinking fine craft beers in a can is a weird option. Most people still even have a pre-conceived notion that cans make your beer taste metallic. This simply isn't the case. Canning beer is a real science that breweries take very seriously. Cans will go through an X-ray machine, ensuring the proper seal. They also get tested for correct fill levels, oxidation and bacterial infections. Cans go through all the same rigors as bottles, yet offer more benefits.
So keep a lookout for craft beer in cans. New Belgium recently started canning, as did SweetWater, Sierra Nevada and more. There are many local breweries canning, as well. All three of your local production microbreweries will be canning right here in Savannah. Coastal Empire Beer Co. already has cans on the market. Service Brewing Co. will be starting out with a canning line and Southbound Brewing Co. is looking to place an order for a canning line very soon.
Craft beer in a can is on the way. Whether you drink from the can or pour it into a glass, we can guarantee you our beers will taste better. Give it a try!
Smith Mathews (brewmaster) and Carly Wiggins (marketing director) are the founders of Southbound Brewing Company, Savannah's only production microbrewery. Go to www.southboundbrewingco.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.