By Julia Burke, Beer Editor

Snapperhead Genesee Brewing Company in Rochester, New York recently
announced the installation of a $3.5 million production line for the purpose of
packaging beer in 24 oz. cans. Explaining the decision, the brewery’s press
release cited customer demand for canned beers as well as sustainability
factors and the visual impact of cans on retail shelves. Expect to see more of the brewery’s
classics including Genesee, Genny Light and Genny Cream Ale in the can at your
local beer retailer. 

From large macro-owned breweries like Genesee to tiny craft
breweries, cans are popping up more and more often, and their advantages for
both the customer and the brewery are often significant.

First there’s the environmental issue. If you’re drinking really
local — as in, drinking from your
neighborhood brewery (and you should be, on a regular basis), the most
environmentally friendly option is a reusable growler or keg from the brewery’s
tap. Bottles are second-best for local drinking because the beer is just
getting shipped to your corner store, so the weight factor of transporting it
doesn’t cancel out the fact that glass bottles are less energy-intensive to
produce. (For an excellent article on Slate magazine that explains these
environmental issues in depth, click here:
Special thanks to Matt Brewing Company rep Chris Miller for this link.)

Cans start to become the most environmentally responsible
choice when your beer is hitting the road for long distances. With their
lightweight packaging, cans are less energy intensive to transport. And for one
reason or another, customers more commonly recycle cans than bottles — which is
good because there are more uses for recycled aluminum than for recycled glass.
There are a lot of factors at play, but the obvious low transportation costs
and warm consumer reception associated with canned beer mean it’s not just an
environmental boon.

Twelvepack on whiteFor Butternuts Beer & Ale, a leader in canned New York
beer, the advantages of cans were obvious from the start. “Butternuts Beer & Ale has been packaging all four
of their flagship beers in cans since the brewery started in 2005,” explains
owner/operator Chuck Williamson. “Cans have become a well-received package for
craft beer as of late.”

Williamson points out that
cans are part of the package that is the eye-catching Butternuts brand,
recognized for its brightly colored, wacky imagery. “One of the main reasons we
went to cans from the start was to stand out in the market. For a small brewery
start-up with limited funds we felt we could make a market impression with this
package coupled with our off-beat product labeling.”

Like most environmentally
conscious choices, the decision to use cans made financial sense too. “The
material cost per unit is lower as well which allows us to be price competitive
in a market where traditionally large brewers position themselves,” says
Williamson. “The packaging is lighter as well which means we can ship more
cases on a pallet saving on shipping and reducing our shipping demand. And
aluminum is nearly 100% recyclable so when you are through with your beer can
it may very well become a beer can again!”

Saranac, perhaps the most
prominent member of the Matt Brewing Company family of beers, is also embracing
the can. The brewery offers its Saranac Pale Ale in a 16 oz. can — and it’s
widely held among New York beer lovers that the canned version tastes even
better than the bottled. “Basically, it’s one more option we can offer to our
customers,” explains Matt Brewing Co. representative Chris Miller. Saranac also
recycles all production and packaging materials including aluminum, which makes
the canned Pale Ale a superior green option even if you live near the brewery.

It’s obvious canned beer
isn’t just for mainstream macros anymore; the benefits are perfectly suited to
craft breweries as well. Do you have any favorite beers in cans?