By: Vince Pecoraro

 

 

The last of a three-part series about canning: its origins and emergence into the world of craft brewing.

 

The first wave of craft breweries to start canning had large enough operations to justify their own lines and most had already established successful bottling operations. Now, smaller operations are starting to can at an early age, choosing to take out loans for a canning machine or hire out companies to take care of the work for them.

A canning operation can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, even for smaller setups. Often the cans themselves aren’t available in quantities below 100,000, and this expense alone can be daunting for breweries that are just starting out. Investing can pay off over the long term, however, as breweries with a canning line are able to package beer faster and cheaper than a bottling line.

This is the case for Chatham Brewing, a small brewery located right on Main Street in Chatham, NY who invested in their canning operation just last year. Before their canning line, the brewery only had their beer available in 22 oz. bottles and kegs unless you stopped in to fill up your own growler.

The owner, Tom Crowell, said the canning line takes four people and produces 26 cans a minute, a much quicker rate than their bottling operation. The increased production allowed them to pump out more beer that they could then sell at a cheaper price. With the new setup, the brewery has been able to distribute to more grocery stores and beverage centers, charging $2 to $3 per 16 oz. can while 22 oz. bombers were being marked for $10 and up.

Which would you rather buy for the same price: a four-pack of tallboys or a bomber? To me, the choice is simple.

Some breweries don’t produce the volume of product to justify purchasing a canning operation; the ones that could often don’t have the space to accommodate a canning line.

This has paved the way for a new type of production: mobile canning.

Companies like the Can Van out in San Francisco or the Craft Beer Crew from Brooksville, Florida bring all of the supplies and manpower needed to can a batch. They charge per the case and will execute every step of the process, from putting labels on the cans to putting them on pallets for shipment.

This kind of service has become especially popular among nanobreweries, often run by amateurs out of basements and garages, who are then able to easily distribute their brew without investing in bottles or relying solely on kegs.

A growing industry, there are dozens of mobile canneries circulating throughout the country that have all sprung up in just the last five years.

This kind of service allows for the little guy to keep up as larger craft breweries continue to install canning operations. The Brooklyn Brewery started their line in 2008, the New Belgium Brewing Company began to can their ever-popular Fat Tire Amber Ale in 2012 and the Harpoon Brewery just entering the canning world with its award-winning IPA last year.

The market is slowly shifting from glass to aluminum, and new opportunities like the mobile canning are making it easier than ever for small-batch canning operations. The only question that remains is: What’s next?