While in Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, I noticed an emerging trend in the Craft Beer industry. Cans!
Maui Brewing Company and Oskar Blues Brewing are two breweries that only package their beer in cans. As a self-professed “beer geek,” I must admit that when I first heard this I turned up my nose. All I could think about was the horrible, cheap canned beer that I drank in college, and how it had that metallic after taste. After chatting with the folks at Oskar Blues during the fest, I now have a different outlook.
Some of the benefits of cans over bottles are that they are less expensive, easily recycled, and cheaper to ship because they take up less space and break less during transport. They also chill much faster than bottles, and probably the best benefit for consumers is that they prevent light from getting into the beer and causing oxidation. In addition to all this, the modern aluminum can has an interior coating that keeps the beer from having that metallic taste that we all remember from back in the day. I can personally attest to the fact that the beer in their cans is very tasty!
So, how does the craft beer industry spread the word that canned beer is better than bottle? It’s a similar situation to that of the wine industry when many wineries started turning to screw caps over cork. Screw caps always had a negative association as only being on a cheap product. Boone’s Farm, anyone?
However, the opinion on that is now changing and the wine industry is starting to see more of an acceptance of it. I think the brewer’s best plan of attack is to educate the consumer. The Craft Beer industry is all about education of their product. Since they don’t have the big advertising dollars that major breweries have, they often send sales reps, or even the brewers themselves, to pubs to sit and chat with the customers and educate them on what a craft beer is and how it’s made and what sets it apart.
That strategy coupled with a superior product, has worked well for them so far. Large volume U.S. Breweries have seen a decline in sales, while craft breweries saw over a 10% increase in sales last year. In my case, the education strategy worked. I’m now a huge fan of Oskar Blues beer (come to Kentucky, please!) and am sold on packaging beer in cans. However, you still won’t catch me drinking a Keystone Light out of one!