The move made us the first U.S. craft brewer to brew and can its own beer, and was outright blasphemy in our brown-bottles-only culture. ”No craft beer lover,” we were told prior to launch, “is gonna buy gourmet beer in a can.”
“But wouldn’t it be funny,” we asked ourselves between laughs, “to squeeze our juicy, hoppy pale ale into a freakin’ can?!”
We saw the idea as a novel way to lure outsiders to our brewpub in our hometown of 1,400 people. It also fit our “Code of Antics”: It was irreverent, made us laugh for days, and challenged the status quo and our customers, who swore (like every beer geek at the time) that cans were bad for beer.
But aluminum cans, we discovered, are good for beer. By offering the best protection from light and oxygen (a beer’s worst enemies), they keep our assertive-but-elegant beers fresher for longer. Cans also allow beer nuts to more easily enjoy great beer outdoors. And, along with their recycling bennies, their light weight means we shrink our carbon footprint for shipped beer by about 40%.
Of course, none of our customers knew this. So we became disciples for cans and our bodacious beer. We “canverted” consumers with a wink (our “Hot Chicks & Beer” beer-can chicken campaign was one of our hits) and gallons of facts about our package of choice.
Today, our little joke still has the laughter flowing.
Prior to filling our first can of Dale’s Pale Ale in 2002, we produced 700 barrels of beer on a tiny 3-barrel system in the basement of our brewpub. Last year we did more than 12,000 barrels of beer, and this year we’re on target for passing the 20,000-barrel mark in our new brewery and cannery.
Our beers have earned a flood of perception-changing attention and honors, too. Our New York Times “Top U.S. Pale Ale” nod (in a blind taste test) was a shot heard ’round the world for canned craft beer and our effort.
More than 25 U.S. craft brewers have now joined us in the microcanning niche, and craft beer lovers now buy canned beer without shame or brown bags. (And we’ve discovered that we were cheerleaders for “organoleptics” before we’d ever heard the term.)
Would this have happened if we had played it safe and bottled our beer like every other peer? No way.
Instead, we ignored the packaging status quo and charted our own pursuit of happiness. By doing so, we’ve gained a nationwide following that loves our moxie as much as our beer. Along the way, we’ve also had one giant barrel fun for ourselves. Uncanny success, for sure. F&BP