The advantage of the aluminum bottles, asserts Big Sky’s Bjorn Nabonzney, is that you can run them through a regular bottling line with minor adjustments. The down side is that they’re more expensive than glass. Individual bottles are retailing for about $2 a bottle, according to Nabonzney. He expects the price to come down as more breweries invest in the package.
And that’s exactly what’s happening. Last summer, Pittsburgh Brewing Co, released its flagship Iron City beer in aluminum bottles manufactured at a plant in Mercer County, PA. The bottles feature an IC logo from the 1940s, and the slogan “Save Our City” on the back. It’s not clear how buying aluminum beer bottles will save a city whose fortunes have risen and fallen with the steel industry. But the package is helping a struggling regional brewery win back some market share from the national breweries.
Of course, the big boys didn’t get that way by letting the grass grow under the feet, so it’s hardly surprising that Anheuser-Busch has premiered its own version of this new container. Currently being test-marketed in 14 cities nationwide are 16-oz aluminum bottles of Michelob, Michelob Light and Anheuser Select. The Michelob bottles are interesting in that they eschew the usual logo in favor of a large stylized letter “M’ and splashes of royal blue and gold. “They’re a little more cutting edge, more sophisticated, upscale…’” says Rick Leininger, director of Michelob brands.
And if any brewers still have doubts about the image of the can, consider this: the Niebaum-Coppola Winery in Rutherford, CA. has reportedly launched the Sofia Mini, a pink can containing sparkling white wine, with a straw attached. The package is named after owner Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter Sofia, and sells for $20 a four-pack.