It’s time, isn’t it? I mean I could understand it initially. Change brings out the deepest of insecurities and skepticism in people, especially when the thing that is changing is going in a direction of something that has for decades stood for inferiority and questionable quality.
When the initial wave of craft beer in cans began, there was a good amount of backlash from a sector of the craft beer community. But that didn’t deter those breweries from installing canning lines instead of bottling lines, and the trend (if you can call it that) shows no sign of slowing down.
According to CraftCans.com, 81 craft breweries were canning their beer in 2010. Today that number sits at well over 500 breweries which all together put over 2000 canned beers on US market shelves (and I suspect the numbers are even higher. CraftCan wasn’t up to date regards to breweries who can in Delaware and so maybe other states are under represented as well).
I’ve witnessed this growth myself watching the canned craft beer section at State Line Liquors, a small shelf pushed into a corner, grow into a much larger shelf that OK, is still pushed into a corner but you can no longer walk past it unaware of its presence.
Once breweries began to get their patrons over the stigma that beer in cans was inferior, in some way tasted like “canned beer”, or that a hop vine died every time a can was opened; it was inevitable that the convenience and portability of cans would be quickly embraced.
Let’s face it when it comes to the most accommodating friend who is always up for fun, cans are it. They can go places that bottles can’t go, are easier and safer to deal with than a pile of empty glass, and as I pointed out on a recent Facebook chat, they’re far superior based on their shear stackability alone.
These potential benefits weren’t lost on Lori Clough whose 3rd Wave Brewery although having a history of bottling their shelf products on a bottling line inherited when her and her partner Suellen Vickers acquired the old Evolution Brewing site, recently released their seasonal BeachBreaker Apricot Wheat in cans. “We are located close to the Delaware and Maryland resort beaches, lots of hotels and state parks. All of which do not allow (or discourage) glass bottles,” Lori said.
But Lori also commented that canning had other advantages, “As we researched the canning process, we decided to can one year round product and a few seasonals….Cans work so much better in carry in/carry out situations. The cans and the canning process has greatly improved over the last few years. More people tend to recycle cans. Cans protect the product much better than bottles. And last, lots of other breweries are canning, we don’t want to miss out!”
And Lori doesn’t have to look far to witness some of these other breweries that are canning. In fact, she doesn’t even have to look outside of the state.
Delaware’s Twin Lake Brewery has offered their only shelf product Greenville Pale Ale in a can from the very beginning, and Milford’s Mispillion River has canned all their beers except for occasional “brewery sales only” bottle releases. So what can we expect to see from 3rd Waving joining these beers in the future?
Lori told me that their pale ale ShoreBreak will be available in cans all year round and that along with BeachBreak Apricot you can expect two other seasonals, SunSet Peach Wheat and SunDancer White IPA in mid July and late August, respectively.
But if it was just these new, cool kids taking to cans, maybe this whole “craze” might go away but no, some of the more established breweries are also taking advantage of the aluminum resurgence. Sierra Nevada, Ballast Point, Avery, Victory, Cigar City, Brewer’s Art and Bells all now have offerings in cans and early this year it was announced that industry darling New Glarus had installed a canning line. Except they hadn’t. But then they had.
No, I feel that despite some stubborn naysayers who will continue to hold on to their glass as tightly as Rose did to Jack at the end of Titanic (until she finally…well, you know…), thanks to some breweries who were willing to go against initial skepticism, cans are here to stay and will only continue to grow in numbers on the shelves of your favorite beer stop.
As always I would like to thank Lori for taking some of her valuable time to talk to me.