The growing popularity of craft beers in America — as evidenced by the never-ending acquisitions of craft brands by major breweries — has given consumers plenty of options to choose from should they lose interest in Bud Light or Miller High Life, but it’s also come with a problem that plagues these niche microbreweries — how to can the beer.
As the demand for canned beer rises, returning after years of a marked preference for glass bottles within the craft community, small breweries are finding it hard to meet that demand when their canning orders often don’t even meet the minimum order required by the manufacturer. Newburgh Brewing Company, for example, sells roughly 400 barrels of canned beer a year, around 130,000 cans, while the minimum order to work with a can manufacturer is a truckload — roughly 155,000 to 200,000 cans, depending on their size.
As a result, many breweries do the canning themselves, relying on a small in-house team to work with mobile canners, which bring canning machinery directly to the brewer, or raising the money for their own equipment.
In Queens, the Rockaway Brewing Company uses about 6,000 cans a month, but it’s difficult for the brewery to try new varieties of canned beer because the available stock is often already designed for another beer. The process is complicated by the fact that many small breweries use 16-ounce cans instead of the standard 12-ounce cans, requiring specialized labels that breweries spend a lot of time designing.
“Certainly we’ve seen some of our brewery members struggle in recent months,” Bart Watson, the chief economist at the Brewers Association told the New York Times. “This has proven to be a real challenge for members that have built their business model around getting these cans.”