Canned, Craft Beer Earned A 17.2-Percent National Share Of Packaged-Beer Sales In 2016

RealClear Staff


     In Colorado, it’s all about beer, beer and more beer! Colorado locals’ latest luxury problem is whether to drink from aluminum or glass—cans or bottles.

[Video: courtesy of The Coloradoan]

“For the longest time, the canned beers were mostly all American lagers,” Brewers Association Economist Bart Watson said. “Everything else you were buying came in bottles.”

However, cans are making a comeback in the craft-beer business. In 2016, these suds-container sidekicks earned a 17.2-percent national share of packaged-beer sales—compare to 2013’s 5.6 percent. With tin moving to the top tier, well-known ale outfits are making addendums via canning lines. The smaller lager cabins are opting for the crowler-canning method for their taprooms.

“People are realizing the can is a great vessel for quality beer,” Longmont’s Oskar Blues Brewery Chad Melis said. “People continue to make more complex and more challenging beers in a can.”

In 2002, Oskar Blue was the first, American, craft brewer to coin its own canning line. While other alers had previously done this contractually, O.B. went all the way. “It was something completely against the grain,” Melis said. “But we had learned the aluminum advantages of being better protected from light and oxygen, being more portable and infinitely recyclable. It was a situation where we had nothing to lose.”

These trend setters swelled into Colorado’s second-largest craft brewer—they’re the the nation. Like a lot of innovative ideas, theirs went wild with other Rocky Mountain mashers making the move as well.

[Oskar Blues canning | Photo: Eddie Clark/Oskar Blues]

Colorado king-brewery New Belgium burgeoned a Fat Tire canning collection in 2008—they went full-on canned brands in 2012. In order of achievement and size, Fort Collins’ Odell and Longmont’s Left Hand Brewing bother implemented canning lines in 2015. Each one has availed brands exclusive to cans.

In 2016, Colorado came in first across the nation, as their cans accounted for 45 percent of local, packaged, craft-beer sales—Oklahoma hit last at five percent.

“Colorado is often a leader in the market,” Fort Collins Brewery’s Josh Hall said. “The versatility of cans also really fit the outdoor lifestyle here.”

Also in 2016, these Fort Collins crafters added their own canning line—they completely kicked their bottling battle only a few months after that. “Cans are much lighter—meaning we can stack more on a pallet,” Hall added. “So it not only helps with shipping and freight costs but also our carbon footprint.”

But a portion of the biggest can-industry growth comes out of smaller, neighborhood breweries. Many are in the midst of making the switch to single 32-ounce crowler machines—an Oskar Blue concept that came from garden-vegetable-canning equipment. It takes no time at all to fill and can the beer right in front of a customer—almost-instant in-house ale to go!

“The truth is [64-ounce] glass growlers don’t have a very good shelf life,” Fort Collins’ six-months-old Intersect Brewing Will Herdrick said. (They, too, have gone to tin.) “If you want to take our beer home, it will last much longer with crowlers. ... The [crowler machine] is mobile and easy to use ... And there’s no longer a stigma about canned beer.”

[Oskar Blues' Chad Melis (R) with his father, Chuck Melis (L) | Source: YouTube/11kinser1]

While Oskar Blues will keep giving to the growler-refill effort, they’re not slinging out any new glass-housed guzzlers.

“Every time somebody puts a quality beer in a can, it has helped us,” Melis said. “A high tide raises all ships.”



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