Buzzed: Canned Beer is Back, Big Time

From the April 2014 edition
  • Photos by Tessa Berg

Bottles have long been craft beer’s primary package, but some breweries—like Oskar Blues and Jackie O’s—are opting for cans instead. “People are becoming smarter beer drinkers in general,” says B.J Solomon, co-owner of mobile canning company Buckeye Canning, which offers a portable canning line to Ohio breweries, including Elevator Brewing Co. and Four String Brewing Co. “They say they want the best beer and now they want the best packaging, which ends up being the can.” Here’s why some local brewers are passing on the bottles and pouring their beer into cans.

Cans keep beer tasting fresh.

“If you’ve ever heard that beer gets skunk-y, [that’s because] light affects the hops and creates that off flavor,” says Four String Brewing Co. owner Dan Cochran. This month, his Brass Knuckle American Pale Ale will be available in cans, which—unlike bottles—prolong beer’s shelf life by protecting it from taste-jeopardizing light and oxygen.

Cans cost less in the long run.

A canning machine costs about twice as much as a bottling line, but it can save breweries money—eventually. “Why invest in a bottling line when you can do cans?” says Tim Ward, owner and brewer at North High Brewing. “The price per can is a lot cheaper than bottles.”

It’s a larger investment upfront, though, because empty cans are sold only in bulk, while bottles are available in smaller quantities. But it reduces costs in packaging, because cans don’t require boxes, labels or a labeling machine, Ward says. He plans to use a mobile canning company to package beers, like his IPA and brown ale, in about six months.

Cans are more convenient.

It’s pretty simple: Cans don’t break. What’s more, “they’re lighter, easier on the environment,” says Colin Vent, head brewer at Seventh Son Brewing Co., which plans to begin canning beer this summer. “You can crush them easily. They’re more portable than glass, safer than glass.” Last year, Elevator Brewing Co. sold their Bleeding Buckeye Red Ale in 16-ounce cans to appeal to football tailgaters, owner Dick Stevens says.