After brands like Oskar Blues helped erase the old stigma associated with beer cans, craft breweries across the country have moved away from glass and back towards aluminum for their core offerings. But the canning honeymoon appears to be over as a shortage of cans and distributors reluctant to take on small orders has created a scenario where some breweries can’t even get their suds to the shelf.
The 16-ounce can—equivalent to a standard U.S. pint—is now ubiquitous in the craft-beer industry, often deployed as a way to differentiate smaller breweries from the domestic beer giants that typically use 12-ounce cans.
According to the New York Times, craft breweries have been relying on Crown, a major can manufacturer that required a much smaller order minimum than its main competitors, Ball and Rexam. But with the incredible surge in craft breweries, Crown has increased its minimum order to a ‘truck-load,’ which can range from 155,000 to 200,000 cans.
The new minimums have put some breweries, and some other canners, on high alert. Tim Dorward, who runs his own mobile-canning service, describes the new lay of the land:
“That’s a lot of cans to store, it’s a lot of cash to lay out, and the little guys just don’t have that, Crown was working with people, and they’re very interested in the craft industry, but it just caught them by surprise.”
We reported on the can shortage and Crown’s growing delivery waits while discussing the ways in which beer giants like Budweiser and Coors have been affecting the craft business. But Crown’s decision to up its delivery minimum seems more like an example of craft brewers affecting each others’ ability to produce.
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The silver lining? Craft beer is still very much a community-based endeavor, and while times may be tough and getting tougher, it’s good to know that small breweries are still looking out for each other. Whitewater Brewing Company out of Ontario, for example, recently loaned cans out to nearby breweries who wouldn’t otherwise be able to fill order deadlines.
It’s tough in the craft-beer game, but with more than 10% of the total beer share and more to come, something tells us that the small guys will continue to prevail—even if 16-ounce cans go the way of the dinosaur.
[via New York Times]