Why craft beers are getting canned
If you're not getting local craft brews direct from the tap, there's a big chance you're getting them in a can - or you will soon.
Many local breweries are among those turning to cans as the best way to package beer to-go. They like the benefits cans offer, and locals said rumblings about a shortage of cans haven't caused them much concern.
Crystal Ball Brewing Company, in West York, has been working with a mobile canning unit, which travels to various breweries to can their beer. But the packaging was working so well that the brewery purchased its own canning line, said Jesse James De Salvo, one of the owners.
"It allows us to not schedule our brewing around an upcoming canning run," he said. The brewery can put out more beer in draft and can more styles without having to wait around for another mobile canning run.
"It helps across the board," he said. "We're really excited about that."
While major beer companies tend to use 12 ounce cans, Crystal Ball, like many smaller breweries, opts for 16 ounce cans.
"Our theory is that if you're drinking craft beer, then whatever container you're pouring from should hold 16 ounces because that will fill your pint glass," De Salvo said.
Spring House Brewing Company, in Lancaster, will soon switch packaging from 22 ounce bottles to 12 ounce cans.
Rob Tarves, brewer, said a can is just a "perfect vessel" for beer. It doesn't let in light or oxygen, and it helps get their beer to more people.
"The consumer is starting to see craft beer in cans as standard," he said in an email.
Jack's Hard Cider, in Biglerville, is a green operation, said Shane Doughty, director of sales.
Cans have less of an impact on their carbon footprint. Plus, the company handles its own shipping, and more cases of cans fit in its box truck than bottles. Using bottles might mean having to make more trips to Philadelphia or Washington D.C. for deliveries, Doughty said.
The cider was bottled early on, he said, and customers noticed a difference between the keg and the bottles.
"I think that's a little different than with beer," he said, noting that the glass brought out a lot more acids. "Now we have a lot more consistency between our cans and our kegs."
De Salvo said cans have come a long way. They don't leave an aluminum taste in the beer.
"The cans nowadays aren't your uncle's cans from the '70s, '80s, '90s," he said. "They're just better."
The New York Times reported in December that with more craft breweries moving to canning, there was a sort of shortage of cans, particularly for small breweries that couldn't order as many. Some local brewers said they haven't had much of a problem.
Doughty said he's heard the rumblings about a can shortage, but it hasn't affected that operation.
"You gasp, and then you order cans, and they come," he said.
Jack's Hard Cider has five ciders year round, and they order enough cans that they can take a whole truckload, he said. The shortage might hit smaller breweries that want a smaller order but larger variety of cans.
Spring House was dropped by its first supplier, in favor of larger breweries, Tarves said in an email.
"Breweries with larger more consistent orders for cans were kept while small ones like us … were told to go elsewhere in search of cans," Tarves said.
Liquid Hero Brewery uses 12 ounce cans, except for some special beers, said Josh Hoke, head brewer. The issues tend to be with 16 ounce cans and printed cans, he said in an email.
The two major distributors of cans are being selective about new clients, he said. Smaller craft breweries typically want small runs of multiple styles of cans.
"We currently use a mobile canning company which because of their size and buying power doesn't have an issue getting cans, at least not yet," Hoke wrote.
Liquid Hero also uses blank cans and has a shrink sleeve put on them, which skirts printing issues.
De Salvo, from Crystal Ball Brewing, said they use 16 ounce cans, but their supplier hasn't had any issue. He doesn't think the shortage will last long, if it's still going on at all.
"It's just the old story of supply and demand," he said, adding that if there's demand, the few major can manufacturers will figure it out. "It'd behoove them to have what the people want."
Looking for craft beer in a can? There's a website for that. Craftcans.com offers "news and reviews for the canned beer revolution." The website includes a database and map of many breweries and their canned varieties.
See the process
Crystal Ball Brewing posted the video below on its website to show the canning process.