The Brew Site

The Session #98: Cans or bottles?

Yesterday was the first Friday of the month, meaning time for another round of The Session was in order—collaborative beer blogging, inviting bloggers of all type to participate by sharing their thoughts on a common topic. My post is a day late because I had a book signing event yesterday where, ironically, there was discussion on this month’s topic (suggested and hosted by Nathan Pierce of Microbrewr): Cans or bottles?

I ask this same question to every guest of MicroBrewr Podcast. I think it’s an interesting study into both industry and consumer trends.

The craft beer industry is neat, in that the producers are often consumers as well. When a brewery owner answers this question, she gives her perspective not only as a manufacturer of an alcoholic beverage product, but also as a consumer of beer.

A bottling line or a canning line is a substantial financial investment. So this question is a significant consideration to anyone starting a brewery.

The answers give great insight. However, one thing I see lacking from the discussion is solid data.

What’s your perspective?

I’ve spent more than a few words on the topic of cans, so I’m not going to rehash any of the usual cans vs. bottles arguments—suffice to say, I love cans, and the best analogy I use to get people who might think they are inferior to thinking about cans differently is to compare them to mini kegs—after all, that’s what they are. If people love draft beer, straight from the keg, then why should canned beer be any different?

I do have a comment about Nathan’s line I quoted above: “A bottling line or a canning line is a substantial financial investment. So this question is a significant consideration to anyone starting a brewery.” Well, yes and no—here in Oregon in particular we’ve been seeing more and more examples of mobile bottlers and canners—basically, a mobile canning (or bottling) line on a truck that drives around from brewery to brewery, and packages the beer right then and there, no additional equipment needed. So I think it’s increasingly less important these days for startup breweries to have to consider can or bottle packaging equipment if this option is available to them—not to say, of course, that they wouldn’t invest in their own equipment, because many (most?) do once they grow big enough financially and physically—but to a certain extent I don’t think this question is as necessary when considering starting a brewery as it once was.

Case in point: at my book event last night, Three Creeks Brewing was (very generously!) pouring samples of their beer—which included their newly-canned beers, for which they use a mobile canner to package. (They bottle their beers as well.) And Kevin (their rep) was more than happy to talk up the virtues of the cans for folks who were asking the very question this Session asks. Three Creeks is making a bet on cans, particularly for the Central Oregon lifestyle, and once they grow big enough they will install their own canning line.

Bottles aren’t going away, of course. But I’m always excited to see new beers in cans and I hope to see many more.