Craft Brewers Are Desperate for Beer Cans

Artisanal beverages are so popular that makers face a can shortage

beer cans
SARA HYLTON/Reuters/Corbis

The American craft beer industry has surged over the last few decades. But sometimes success comes with growing pains. In this case, it's left some small breweries competing to get enough aluminum cans to package their products in.

Canned beer used to be derided by craft beer snobs as on par with the cheap, mass-produced stuff made by massive companies like Budweiser and Coors. But in the last few years cans have become a popular choice for small breweries, often for the same reasons that people once looked down their nose at those vehicles for delivery: they are cheap, easy to work with and act like “mini kegs” that keep the beer fresh, Wyatt Marshall writes for Munchies.

“Cans are much more accepted on the market now,” Paul Halayko, the co-owner and president of the Newburgh Brewing Company, tells Rachel Abrams for the New York Times. “I think for a very long time, people thought that beer should be in a bottle.”

However, the rise of canned craft beer is starting to face some growing pains. Abrams reports that many small breweries in the United States get their cans from a single company, Crown, which offered much smaller minimum orders than its competitors. But for the last several months, Crown has been having trouble fulfilling orders, leaving some breweries cooling their heels as they wait for cans.

“Certainly we’ve seen some of our brewery members struggle in recent months,” Bart Watson, the chief economist for the Brewers Association trade group, tells Abrams. “This has proven to be a real challenge for members that have built their business model around getting these cans.”

While Crown used to let breweries buy amounts as small as 100,000 cans, the company recently announced that there is such high demand that they will soon require all breweries to buy the industry standard truckload – about 200,000 cans per load, Marshall writes.

This puts some small breweries in a sticky situation. The Brewers Association places strict limits on how much beer a brewery can get and still call itself “craft,” (about 6 million barrels of beer, annually) but Crown’s new minimum order requirements might be more than a new brewery needs or can afford, Marshall writes. In the meantime, the craft beer industry shows no signs of slowing: according to the Brewer’s Association, 1,000 new craft breweries opened in the last year alone. If they can’t figure out a new way to get their cans, up-and-coming breweries might struggle to get their beer to thirsty fans.

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