When the craft beer renaissance began in 1977 with New Albion Brewing Co., canned beer was not an option. The main hurdles included the high cost of a canning line, the availability of affordable cans in manageable quantities, plus the perception among consumers that good quality beer could be found in cans.
That all changed in 2002, when Dale Katechis, president of Oskar Blues Brewery, a small microbrewery in Lyons, CO, released his highly hopped Dale’s Pale Ale in cans, an historical change in how the microbreweries could go to market.
Cans offer many advantages. They afford access to venues that don’t allow bottles, such as stadiums, picnic and boating areas, ball parks, golf courses, beaches, airlines and national parks. Cans also better protect beer from light and ultra-violet damage. The lining technology of cans has also improved over the years. This is a much lighter package that saves on shipping costs. And more cans than bottles fit in most coolers or refrigerators.
Craft brewed beer in cans was made possible when Cask Brewing Systems of Calgary, Canada developed an affordable canning line for small-batch packaging.
The new canning line is inexpensive compared to a bottling operation, and can fit in a 10 by 10 square foot section of the brewery. This has allowed a nice number of micros and brewpubs to offer their beers for take-out in cans and beyond. By the end of 2006, over 25 small breweries in the United States will be packing their beer in cans.
Collectors Can, Too
This change to the industry has started a ground swell among the collectors. Here is a chance for a collector to acquire every can produced by this new technology. The distribution channels for these small brewers is not as vast as their bigger competitors, so simply by sheer numbers these cans will always be scarce.
Already some cans have started to grow in rarity. Late last year, Oskar Blues produced two commemorative cans with a very limited release: Gordon, a big double IPA; and Leroy, a brown ale. These cans were brought out just before the holidays: one had a green label; one, red. The graphics used by the micros are pushing the envelope. Top of the Hill Brewpub in Chapel Hill, NC, has two beautiful cans out on the market and the collectors have taken notice.
Last year, when Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, one of the breweries damaged was the brand new Heiner Brau Brewery of Covington, LA. This brewery had just released their kölsch beer in a can, a can which is now difficult for collectors to acquire. The Ukiah Brewery of Ukiah, CA is now packaging an organic beer in cans.
There is not a collector out there who would not give up their first born to have been around in 1935 when the first Kruger cans went on sale. Now, more than 70 years later, collectors actually get a chance to experience history in the making (and retain their first-born).