Southern Star Canning (flickr under a CC license)
The Houston Chronicle covers something we’ve covered many times before (and Joe wrote about just this week): microcanning. They also note the stigma that comes with cans, which I think is the biggest drawback, though many canning breweries would disagree.
Fougeron also believes cans helped differentiate the brand when Southern Star began production two-and-a-half years ago. The brewery is on pace to double production in 2010, he said.
“I attribute some of our success to being in a can,” he said. “It really sets us apart at the retail level.”
Wagner said he has no intention of switching to cans because glass maintains a “psychological” edge in the pricier craft segment.
“If people are going to spend eight bucks on a six-pack, they want it in a bottle,” he said. “… We don’t want to put our product in a package that somehow conveys cheap, low-quality beer. There’s no doubt that cans still carry some of that stigma.”
I can see both arguments, and it’s entirely plausible that as canning becomes more popular, the stigma slowly disappears. But right now, I think the fact that it conveys “cheap” is still a problem for canning, even if it’s not true.
They also provide some helpful numbers:
Cumulatively, sales of craft beer in 12-ounce cans were up 80 percent in the first half of 2010 compared with a year earlier, according to data compiled by marketing analyst SymphonyIRI Group. That compares with 11.2 percent growth in six-pack bottles of comparable size.
Cans still have a long way to go to catch up. In the first half of 2010, craft brewers sold $376.5 million worth of beer in bottles, compared with $2.3 million in cans.
Yet craft brewers — generally smaller, independently owned companies that use premium ingredients and lack the production-scale savings enjoyed by mass-market giants — have been turning to aluminum in greater numbers since Colorado-based Oskar Blues got the can rolling in 2002.
Keep in mind: if you’re reading this and understand why microcanning is, you probably don’t need to be convinced. But for your casual craft beer fan — for the person who’s looking to try something other than Miller Lite — there’s something to a bottle that people associate with quality. It may not be right, but for now, it’s reality.