The craft beer business is booming. The latest trends include cask-conditioned beer and sour beer. However, the hottest trend might not have anything to do with brewing. Rather, it is the "canvolution" of craft beer.
Oskar Blues Brewery is credited with being one of the first craft breweries to issue beer in cans with the release of Dale's Pale Ale in November 2002 (source). Before that, canned beer was primarily the domain of cheap, mass-produced beer like Milwaukee's Best (aka "Beast") and Natural Light (aka "Natty Light"). Rather than try to make a better beer, these mass producers focused on making the least bad beer. The quality was so poor that low-cost competitor Keystone Light held itself out as "America's Least Bitter Beer":
Oskar Blues' decision to use cans was not just an effort to standout in what was becoming a crowded craft beer marketplace. Rather, there are several competitive advantages to using cans over bottles:
- Cans provide better protection from beer-degrading UV light than bottles. Plus, the perception that cans impart a metallic taste is outdated. Today, cans are lined with a polymer coating that protects the beer from the metal.
- Bottling might be cheaper in the short-term, but canning offers long-term savings through the use of less expensive materials. Moreover, mobile canneries such as Iron Heart Canning are leveling the playing field for smaller brewers who don't have the resources to install a canning line.
- Beer cans are lighter, more portable, cool faster, and take up less space than bottles.
- Aluminum is often easier to recycle than glass. In Nashville, for example, we have curbside recycling for aluminum but not for glass.
Another advantage of cans over bottles is the ability to use the space on the can for creative, wraparound designs that standout on shelves. This has led to a renaissance in the art of beer can packaging, which has been well documented on the canned beer enthusiast website, CraftCans.com. Russ Phillips, manager of the website and author of a recent book about craft beer can art, was recently asked by Dan Gentile of Thrillist to pick his favorite designs. Fortunately for us, a few of his selections are federally registered or pending trademarks:
Indeed Brewing Company Midnight Ryder American Black Ale
U.S. Reg. No. 4,239,235 for MIDNIGHT RYDER (words only)[/caption]
Tallgrass Brewing Company 8-Bit Pale Ale
U.S. Serial No. 86333828 for 8-BIT (words only)[/caption]
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U.S. Reg. No. 4,560,362 for SNAKE HANDLER (words only)[/caption]
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