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Cans or bottles surprising results from two blind taste tests.

Cans or bottles? Surprising results from two blind taste tests

I was in The United States of L.A. at a friend’s home when I had a crazy idea. “Cans or bottles!” I exclaimed to Tim as I raised my head out of the refrigerator.

Tim stared back at me, not really sure how to respond.

“Cans or bottles,” I nodded. “We’re going to test it, right now.”

He smiled back. Another one of my crazy ideas.

“Let’s go,” I clapped my hands. “We have to go to the grocery store.”

 

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Does canned beer taste better?

When I ask the MicroBrewr Podcast guests whether they prefer cans or bottles, surprisingly, not many talk about the flavor of the beer inside. There are emotional answers, just that they prefer one to the other. Lots of respondents say that cans protect the beer better. Not many mention flavor.

One of the few to talk about flavor is Maximus Bumsoo from London Ale & Co., the exclusive distributor of London Pride in South Korea. “Definitely cans,” he says. “I don’t know why, but even with London Pride, the cans taste better. The can is more smoother taste-wise, I think.”

If it’s true that the can protects the beer better, then I should find that canned beer tastes better than bottled beer. I wanted to know for myself.

I was so curious that I recently did a couple of blind taste tests to see if there really is a difference between beer packaged in cans, versus beer packaged in bottles.

I did blind taste tests with 2 sets of friends.

The first time, we knew it was a “cans versus bottles” test. We had the same beer, side-by-side, one from a bottle, the other from a can. We were trying to evaluate the beer and trying to see whether we could determine which came from the can and which came from the bottle.

The second time, my friends didn’t know anything about the packaging. I told them that they had 2 different beers of the same style. I asked them to describe the differences between the two and tell me which they liked more.

The results are surprising.

Blind taste test, Part 1

For the first experiment, we used 3 different beers. Tim and I chose beer styles on the milder side. A really strong flavored beer would potentially mask any differences imparted by the packaging.

These are the 3 beers for the first taste test:

  • Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Boont Amber Ale
  • Saint Archer Brewing Company, Pale Ale
  • Ballast Point Brewing Company, Pale Ale The Original
Taste test one: Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale, Saint Archer Pale Ale, Ballast Point Pale Ale.

Taste test one: Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale, Saint Archer Pale Ale, Ballast Point Pale Ale.

Tim’s passion and his expertise are in wine. His apartment has more wine glasses than beer glasses. So we compared each of the beers in wine glasses. One marked with a charm, the other not.

The objective was to taste each beer side-by-side. It was a blind tasting, so we didn’t know which was which. We were to describe the beer to discern whether there were any differences. Then we had to guess which came from the can and which came from the bottle.

Tim poured for Sebastian and I. Then I poured for Tim.

Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Boont Amber Ale

First up was the Boont Amber Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company.

Now, let me say that I entered this whole exercise with a bias toward bottles. Call me old-fashioned—and my bias is diminishing, especially after hearing from so many can advocates on MicroBrewr Podcast—but I prefer bottles.

So for our first test, without knowing which was which, I picked the charm as being from the bottle. I liked that one better, so I assumed it was the bottled beer. In fact, it was the canned beer.

Sebastian also preferred the canned beer. Upon tasting the one with the charm, he immediately exclaimed, “I love this one. This is it.” He tasted again and said that all the flavors work together in the canned beer.

In the end, Tim liked the bottled beer better. However, he incorrectly picked this one as the canned beer. Coincidentally, I marked his with the charm the same as he did for Sebastian and I. He said the one without the charm had “far more carbonation and flavor.” So he thought it was the canned beer because when he opens a can of his favorite American macro lager, it always has a lot of carbonation and foam.

Even on the first beer in the test, we were all surprised how different the beers were in aroma and flavor, but sometimes even in appearance.

Tim said the flavors in the canned beer were muted, it had less flavor overall. “You can’t get a lot of malty good juiciness,” he said.

Like Tim and I, Sebastian said the bottled beer had a “sharp” flavor. He further described it as “GMO.” I don’t think he meant it literally, but just as a general criticism, perhaps a vague notion of something lacking. Although he did say that the bouquet came out more in this beer.

I felt the canned beer was lighter in color, had more flavor, and the malts were more pronounced. The bottled beer had a sharp flavor and I wondered whether it was a metallic flavor. Yet overall, the bottled beer had less flavor.

To recap: All three of us guessed incorrectly. Sebastian and I preferred the canned beer, while Tim preferred the bottled beer.

It was interesting that Tim felt the bottled beer had more flavor, but I felt it had less flavor. We all agreed that the “sharp” flavor in this beer was absent or less intense in the canned beer.

During the process, Tim and I each recognized that our own pre-existing preferences—mine for bottled beer and his for canned beer—were affecting our preference during the test and affecting our choice about which was from the can and which was from the bottle.

Saint Archer Brewing Company, Pale Ale

Second was the Pale Ale from Saint Archer Brewing Company.

Before we knew which was from the can and from the bottle, I preferred the beer with the charm, so I again picked this one as the bottled beer. This time, I was correct!

Sebastian said the one without the charm had a “weird metallic funk to it.” He should have agreed with his initial perception; he eventually picked this one as the bottled beer, but it was the canned beer.

Tim preferred the canned beer. He said it was more crisp and more flavorful.

Tim and I each perceived a definite difference between the two. But in different ways.

Tim felt that the canned beer was more flavorful. He said it was more crisp, it had bigger, bolder flavors, and gave a flowery sensation. In the bottled beer, he said, “You get that [same flavor], except not as flashy and fresh.”

Overall, I felt the bottled beer had more flavor. In the bottled beer, I sensed aromas of crayons that were not present in the canned beer. I also sensed distinctly more intense flavors of orange peels and hops in the bottled beer.

At first Sebastian could tell a difference, but then he couldn’t. Maybe his taste buds were getting tired from this Pale Ale that seems to me more like an India Pale Ale.

To recap: Tim and I each guessed correctly, but nearly opposite. I liked the bottled beer better, saying it was more flavorful. Tim liked the canned beer better saying it had more intense flavors.

Sebastian guessed incorrectly, but I think he would have got it right if he had stuck with his initial reaction. At first, he was sure the canned beer had a weird “metallic” flavor and aroma and he preferred the bottled beer. After a while, he couldn’t tell a difference. He tasted back-and-forth several times until he was thoroughly confused.

With this round, Sebastian decided that he really likes Amber Ales. He asked to have more of the first beer, the Boont Amber Ale. Alas, this is science—we must continue the study!

Ballast Point Brewing Company, Pale Ale The Original

Lastly, we tried Pale Ale The Original from Ballast Point Brewing Company.

Perhaps this sampling had the greater difference between the canned beer and the bottled beer.

I preferred the canned beer over the bottled beer. While I felt that the aroma from the canned beer had hints of oil-based paint and the flavor was like orange (the color, not the fruit), I felt the canned beer had a crisp, sharper taste. It just tasted cleaner, better. Whereas the bottled beer had less aroma, less flavor, and tasted kind of funky.

Sebastian preferred the bottled beer, which he felt had a nice citrus aroma. He said the canned beer smelled like pee and smelled like wet hay. He said the canned beer tasted more mellow, less pronounced than the other.

Tim, on the other hand, said there was “not a huge discernible difference in flavor [between the two].” Upon further investigation, he noted that the bottled beer had more popping floral aromas, while the aromas and flavors of the canned beer were muted. He ultimately preferred the bottled beer over the canned beer.

To recap: All 3 of us guessed incorrectly about which came from the can versus the bottle. I liked the canned beer better. If pee smell is undesirable in beer, then Sebastian preferred the bottled beer, as did Tim.

 

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Blind taste test, Part 2

After the first taste test, I realized it was too complicated, we should simplify it a bit. Huffington Post published in 2012 a very simple test with interesting results. Check it out here.

Tim suggested a good idea: Do the test again with new participants, but don’t tell them anything about cans versus bottles. Five days later, I caught my friends Jon and Kelly in Santa Cruz, California.

I told Jon and Kelly that I would pour them 3 different beer styles:

  • Lager
  • Amber Ale
  • India Pale Ale

For each style, Jon and Kelly believed that they had 2 different beers side-by-side. Their instructions were to describe each beer and tell me which they preferred.

Here’s what I poured, unbeknownst to Jon and Kelly:

  • Anchor Brewing, Anchor California Lager
  • Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Boont Amber Ale
  • Ballast Point Brewing Company, Sculpin India Pale Ale
Taste test two: Anchor Brewing Anchor California Lager, Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale, Ballast Point Sculpin IPA.

Taste test two: Anchor Brewing Anchor California Lager, Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale, Ballast Point Sculpin IPA.

Jon and Kelly are each teachers. Kelly felt it would be prudent to have a rubric with which to judge the beers.

They are a new couple, having been dating for a couple months. Jon has been homebrewing for a couple of years. Perhaps Kelly’s rubric was secretly intended to mask her intimidation.

We came up with this rubric:

  • Color/appearance
  • Head/carbonation
  • Nose (aroma)
  • Taste/aftertaste
  • Body (mouth-feel)

I didn’t participate in the second tasting because I already knew what the selection was.

In truth, by the time we got to my turn we were kind of tipsy. The previous beers had warmed up a bit. Jon threw in a bunch of different beers from his fridge. Kelly had trouble keeping up with the notes. It was kind of comical. Not at all scientific.

Anyways…

Anchor Brewing, Anchor California Lager

The first blind taste test was Anchor California Lager from Anchor Brewing.

I didn’t tell Jon or Kelly what they had tasted until they were done with all 3 beers. Jon carefully studied the two before deciding that he definitely preferred the bottled beer.

Kelly also much preferred the bottled beer.

Like in the previous test with my other friends, Jon and Kelly noticed a definite difference from the canned beer to the bottled beer.

Jon described the canned beer as light, not heavy carbonation, smooth, watery. He said it had a light tint of malt flavor and more aftertaste than most lagers.

Then he tried the bottled beer from the glass. “Woah,” he said certainly, “this one is better.” He said that the bottled beer had much more body, more carbonation, and less nose. He said it was more typical of lagers in its lack of aftertaste.

Kelly described the canned beer as a backyard, afternoon barbecue beer. She said it was light in color. It had more head to begin with, but then it felt flat in her mouth.

“It’s okay,” she said, reflecting on what she felt was a really strong front-taste.

In the bottled beer, she felt that the aroma was much less strong. She noted that the carbonation remained much more intact. It started off with less foam, but still felt more carbonated. She said the aftertaste was stronger than the front-taste.

“I don’t think I would drink that one again,” Kelly pointed to the other glass with the canned beer.

To recap: Jon and Kelly both liked the bottled beer more than the canned beer.

Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Boont Amber Ale

Second for Jon and Kelly was the first for Sebastian, Tim and I: Boont Amber Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company.

Jon preferred the canned beer. He said it smelled malty, like a pretty typical amber. He said the flavor was pretty characteristic of an Amber Ale, with a crisp malty flavor, a mild flavor, a little bit of a sweet taste, and a hint of allspice like an autumn ale. “It’s good,” he said with a shrug, “unmemorable. Very drinkable.”

When he tasted the bottled beer, he said it didn’t have a lot of nose. It tasted more carbonated. He felt it was “definitely on the lagery end of an amber.” He concluded, “It’s not as good. It’s not as sweet. But I’d order more of that one.”

Kelly also preferred the canned beer. She said it smelled sweet, kind of like molasses. “I like the color,” she said of it’s foggy appearance. “The color is very appealing to me.” After tasting it she said certainly, “This is very good. Whatever the sweetness is, it’s delicious.”

Again, there were differences between the two. Jon said the bottled beer had a little bit of a malty flavor, whereas the canned beer had a sweet flavor, but not the malty sweet.

Kelly again noticed that the head of the canned beer decreased rapidly compared to the bottled beer. She described the canned beer as having more of a licorice aftertaste that the bottled beer did not have. Kelly noted that the bottled beer was clearer in appearance and the foam persisted more.

“I can’t smell anything off of it,” said Kelly of the bottled beer. “Nothing.”

Kelly said the bottled beer had less flavor, but more carbonation. It had a weird aftertaste that the canned beer did not have.

To recap: Both Jon and Kelly preferred the canned beer.

Ballast Point Brewing Company, Sculpin India Pale Ale

Last of all, was the Sculpin India Pale Ale from Ballast Point Brewing Company.

Jon preferred the canned beer. It was clearer in appearance. “This one definitely has a piney-er nose,” Jon said. It had “a much more sophisticated body. It has a nice balance. You can taste that it’s an IPA, but it’s not defined by the hop character.”

The bottled beer was “spot on, for an IPA,” said Jon. He said it had a “subtle nose for an IPA. Some pine [aroma], but not really noticeable unless you take a strong whiff.”

Kelly preferred the canned beer quite a bit more than the bottled beer.

She grimaced when she tasted the bottled beer. “I don’t like that one.” She pushed the glass away. “I don’t even want to drink the rest of that.”

Jon and Kelly both noted that the bottled beer appeared cloudier than the canned beer.

Kelly also noticed that the canned beer had thinner foam than the bottled beer.

“Out of all the beers this evening,” she noted of this bottled beer, “it is maintaining it’s head the best.”

To recap: They both preferred the canned beer.

 

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Conclusion

Winners of blind taste test part 1

Anderson Valley Saint Archer Ballast Point WINNER
Nathan can bottle can CAN
Sebastian can bottle bottle BOTTLE
Tim bottle can bottle BOTTLE
WINNER CAN BOTTLE BOTTLE

Two out of 3 participants preferred bottles to cans, 2 out of 3 times.

Two out of 3 beers tasted better in the bottle than in the can, 2 out of 3 times.

Overall, bottles had 5 votes and cans had 4, just a 1-vote margin!

Winners of blind taste test part 2

Anchor Brewing Anderson Valley Ballast Point WINNER
Jon bottle can can CAN
Kelly bottle can can CAN
WINNER BOTTLE CAN CAN

Both participants preferred cans to bottles, 2 out of 3 times.

Two out of 3 beers tasted better in the can than in the bottle, 2 out of 3 times.

Overall, cans had 4 votes and bottles had 2—twice as many for cans!

Winners of blind taste test part 2 (with hypothetical tie-breaker)

Anchor Brewing Anderson Valley Ballast Point WINNER
Jon bottle can can CAN
Kelly bottle can can CAN
Nathan (hypothetical) can bottle bottle BOTTLE
WINNER BOTTLE CAN CAN

It would have been good to see whether a third person could have thrown off the dominance of the can. If I had voted opposite of Jon and Kelly, it would have made it more even, like the first taste test, but reversed. Overall, cans would have had 5 votes and bottles would have had 4.

Limitations of the study

None of us are BJCP-certified beer judges, we’re all just beer drinkers. We represent the average beer drinker, spanning a range from occasional beer drinker to passionate homebrewer.

UPDATE (1/10/2017): I have since become a Certified Beer Server. I published all of my study notes on BeerExamSchool.com. If you want to get a job in the craft beer industry, if you want to better evaluate beers, or if you just want to learn more about this amazing beverage, check it out!

In this study we did not consider these variables:

  • Shipping climate and conditions
  • Age of the beer
  • Variations in the packaging line
  • Drinking vessel

We have no way to know the shipping climate for any of the beers we sampled. Some could have been in a climate-controlled container all the way from the brewery to the retail outlet. Others might’ve travelled in an uncooled trailer through California’s scorching San Joaquin Valley.

I didn’t check a shipping date or packaging date between the canned beer and bottled beer. One might’ve been older than the other.

With the exception of my tour of Anchor Brewing, we’ve never seen the breweries. And if we had, we have no way of knowing whether the canning line had recently been cleaned, or if it had been a while for the bottling line.

Additionally, after Jon learned that he was drinking the same beers side-by-side in all 3 rounds, he pointed out that all of the bottled beers that I served were in short glasses, compared to tall glasses for all of the canned beers. This is certainly the reason that Jon and Kelly each noticed less aroma from the bottled beers.

And we never touched a draft beer in this study.

Bias affects perception

Here’s an interesting thing. After I tasted all of my beers and learned the results, I admitted that I am biased toward glass bottles.

To my knowledge, aluminum beverage cans are lined with a thin plastic film to prevent corrosion. I don’t trust plastic. Maybe it’s rational, maybe not, call me paranoid, I’ve read a lot about it. It is a bias, it’s my opinion. It affects my perception even when I don’t realize it.

The point is, whichever beer it was that I liked more in each taste test, I guessed that was the one from the glass bottle. Yet based on the beer alone, I preferred the canned beer 2 out of 3 times.

Sebastian was also biased toward bottles, he didn’t like cans at first. His preferences confirmed his bias—he liked the bottled beer 2 out of 3 times.

Tim claimed to be unbiased, but he previously thought that canned beer was always more carbonated. Yet he found out that to be not always true.

Before the taste test, I asked Jon what his favorite beers were for the given styles. He said one of his favorite Amber Ales is Boont Amber Ale from Anderson Valley. Yet during the blind taste test he said, “Neither are amazing. The [canned one] is more enjoyable for the style of amber that I prefer.” So it’s interesting that he was given one of his favorites, but without the label he said it was “unmemorable.”

These are the sorts of biases that affect a customer’s decision to buy a beer in one packaging over another.

Often these are the biases that also affect a brewery owner’s decision to put their product in a can versus a bottle.

Ultimately, this taste test confirmed that sometimes customers prefer the taste of bottled beer, sometimes they prefer canned beer. The packaging doesn’t affect the customer’s perception of the product. While the packaging does affect the customers decision to purchase the product, those biases are being broken. So use whatever you think works best for your business plan and your marketing plan.

And if you want further reading about the industry’s perception, check out The Session 98. and this recent post recapping the survey from guests on MicroBrewr Podcast.

 

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MicroBrewr 066: How to get an SBA loan for a startup brewery with First Community Bank.

MicroBrewr 066: How to get an SBA loan for a startup brewery

Kris Kennedy works in the Small Business Lending Group with First Community Bank in Roseville, California. They were the first financial institution listed as an allied trade member of California Craft Brewers Association.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s loan program makes it easier for small businesses to get funding from traditional lending institutions. Kris teaches us how to get an SBA loan for a brewery.

All participating banks must go by the SBA guidelines. There are typically 5 criteria to judge worthiness for a loan:

  1. Cash flow – This could be historical or projected. Can you repay the debt?
  2. Economic environment of the industry – Also includes changes to the industry such a new regulations or supply issues.
  3. Collateral – Can include business assets and personal real estate.
  4. How much the borrower is investing – They typically require 20-25% for startups.
  5. Character – They check your credit score including public records such as judgments and liens. Credit score must be at least 680.

Loan funds can be used for a variety of things. Eligible expenditures include:

  • Operating equipment
  • Real estate
  • Tenant improvement to real estate
  • Construction of a new building
  • Refinancing for business debt
  • Purchase of an existing business
  • Working capital

Loan amounts can range from $350,000 to $5 million dollars. Loans are offered in 10-year and 25-year terms. They’re fully amortized, meaning that the monthly payment will be the same through the life of the loan. There’s usually no pre-payment penalty after the first 3 years.

Kris says the ideal candidate should have experience working in a commercial brewery. Planning on opening a brewpub, have restaurant or hospitality experience. Basically, show that your past experience applies to running a brewery.

If you’re a homebrewer wanting to get an SBA loan, it could help to have awards for your beer. So start entering in contests!

Lastly, Kris says, it’s good to work with a lender that has experience in the industry. If you’re in California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, or Oregon, and you need funds to start or expand a brewery, get in touch with Kris.

“Not every startup is something that a lender is going to be able to finance.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From Josh Button: How much business experience should I have? What kind of experience or education would you ecommend?

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Pale ale

Other resources:

You can reach Kris Kennedy and First Community Bank at:

Sponsor:

Beer

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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MicroBrewr 065: Finding the right small business insurance for a brewery with Moores Insurance Management.

MicroBrewr 065: Finding the right small business insurance for a brewery

Moores Insurance Management, in St Paul, Minnesota is an independent insurance agency. They’re not an insurance company; instead they act as an advocate for small businesses, to assess risk and help pick the best insurance plan for your situation.

Jack Moores has been working in the industry for 5 years. He’s the risk advisor for the agency that his father heads. They specialize in finding the right insurance for craft breweries.

Insurance categories that a brewery likely needs:

  • Property insurance – For the building and the brewing equipment.
  • General liability – For third-party claims against your brewery such as “slips, trips, and falls” or other “allegations of negligence.”
  • Workers compensation – If an employee becomes injured or ill while working on the job.
  • Liquor liability – For claims concerning “over-served patrons.” Also covers your defense costs, which could come in handy in the event of frivolous lawsuits.

So how much will insurance cost for your brewery? Plan on budgeting about $5,000 to $10,000 annually for all insurance needs.

Keep in mind that cost of premiums can vary widely based many factors including:

  • Location
  • Property value
  • Amount of equipment
  • Square footage of the building
  • Projected revenue
  • Percent of beer sold on-site
  • Amount and type of live music

Additionally, businesses are rated based on “loss experience” and judged against other businesses in the same industry. Basically, if you have more claims than other breweries, you rates can go up. This is especially important in terms of workers compensation insurance.

“Haste leads to accidents…” says Jack. “Safety and prevention of claims really pays off because workers compensation constitutes close to half of a brewery’s total insurance program.”

Craft breweries experience twice as many claims for workers compensation than their macro brewery counterparts. And many of the risks present in the brewing environment are unique to the industry.

“The brewing business is a unique enough exposure that it warrants specialized coverages,” explains Jack. “A standard commercial insurance policy slapped onto a brewery is really going to leave some pretty significant gaps [in coverage.]”

Other insurance coverage that a brewery should consider:

  • Product recall
  • Employment practices
  • Beer spillage
  • Tank leakage
  • Refrigeration coverage

“The cost isn’t necessarily more, it’s just coverages that are tailored toward breweries,” explains jack

The main thing is to be proactive in managing your risk. Don’t think of insurance as a chore that just needs to be done, so find the least expensive plan.

“You have a product that you love, it’s dream job. I really don’t think it makes sense to jeopardize all of that just to save a few dollars on insurance.”

“Haste leads to accidents… Safety and prevention of claims really pays off.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

If you could ask one question to every brewer or brewery owner, what would you ask? Let me know.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sour beer

Other resources:

You can reach Jack Moores and Moores Insurance Management at:

Sponsors:

InMotion Hosting

“Fast, reliable, affordable, web hosting.”

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Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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MicroBrewr 063: A hundred-page business plan and barely enough money, with Crazy Mountain Brewing Company.

MicroBrewr 063: A hundred-page business plan and barely enough money

At the height of the great recession, Kevin Selvy had a hundred-page business plan and started Crazy Mountain Brewing Company in Edwards, Colorado with $500,000. He calls it an irresponsible amount of money and estimates that nobody should do it with less than $1.5 million.

Nonetheless, he met his 3-year sales estimates within 3 months. After 5 years, their beer is distributed to 18 states and Europe, and they just entered the California markets.

“The best advice I could give,” says Kevin, “is give up your day job and go work for a brewery. When it comes to finding investors, if you can say, ‘I’ve got several years of experience in the industry, I know what I’m doing,’ that goes a lot farther than somebody saying, ‘I just like making beer in my kitchen.’”

Kevin sent his business plan to more people than he could count. He drove 10 hours and slept in the back seat of his car to meet with a potential investor.

“Raising money is a very difficult aspect of starting a brewery,” warns Kevin. “You’re going to get 900 ‘no’s before you get one ‘maybe.’”

Here’s some of his advice:

  • Research your business plan
  • Have a packet ready for when investors ask
  • Don’t give up

Although Kevin’s business plan was about 100 pages, lots of it was graphs and financial tables.

“Make sure it’s very thorough and points a really good picture of what you’re trying to accomplish.”

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 20 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 23 tanks, 20-BBL, 40-BBL, and 60-BBL.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 1, 40-BBL; 1, 20-BBL; and 1, 60-BBL bright tank.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 17,000 BBL brewed in 2013. 20,000-BBL capacity.

Square footage: 10,314 sq. ft.

Years in operation: 5 years (opened 2010).

“The best advice I could give is: Give up your day job and go work for a brewery.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From Kevin Scott: Can you talk about the pros and cons of contracting for raw materials for your beers (i.e, hops, malts, etc.)?

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Session IPA

Other resources:

You can reach Kevin Selvy and Crazy Mountain Brewing Company at:

Sponsors:

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Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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MicroBrewr 062: Cohesive brand development for your brewery, with Measured Methods.

MicroBrewr 062: Cohesive brand development for your brewery

Measured Methods is a multi-purpose agency focusing on craft breweries and other artisanal crafts. They’re based in Burlington, Vermont, but they can provide a variety of services for breweries anywhere. They focus both on the front end, such as branding and anything a customer would see, and also back end, such as processes and supply chain issues.

In this episode, Eric Lussier and Bethany Baker, talk with us about branding, how to develop a look and feel to your company image.

“Behind your product quality,” says Bethany, “the single most important thing about your brand is to have a cohesive look and feel.”

A lot goes into a cohesive brand, such as:

  • Shelf-appeal
  • Color palate
  • Style
  • Event selection

When picking names, whether it’s your brewery, or your beers, think of something that sounds great.

“I often like to tell people that naming conventions are like tattoos,” says Bethany. “Everyone loves a good back story & meaning behind it, but sometimes it’s just because you enjoy the sound of it.

A name should also have a story behind it. And this long-term about the themes that you convey. You don’t want to alienate your audience by mixing it up too much, but you also don’t want to pigeonhole your brand by sticking to strictly to one theme.

“Before you brew your first batch, start promoting your brand.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From MoonFace on Twitter: What’s your go to beer or brewery?

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sour beers

Coffee-infused beers

Other resources:

You can reach Eric Lussier, Bethany Baker, and Measured Methods at:

Eric Lussier on Twitter:

Bethany Baker on Twitter:

Sponsors:

Audible

Download a free audiobook.

Audible. Download a free audiobook. http://microbrewr.com/audible

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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The Session Beer Blogging Friday by Brookston Beer Bulletin The Session 98 Roundup.

The Session 98 roundup: Cans or bottles?

Thank you everyone who contributed to my self-serving blog topic: Cans or bottles? MicroBrewr is all about starting a brewery. One important question is how to package the product.

The price tag is pretty hefty for a commercial line for cans or bottles. Either one could cost hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars. So the question is important to anyone planning to start a brewery. Luckily, recent developments in mobile canning lines and mobile bottling lines have significantly reduced the price and the barrier of entry.

But the dilemma doesn’t stop at the bottom line.

It’s not just about what the customers want, cans or bottles. Clearly trends are shifting. Many people still holdout for bottles. Meanwhile cans, which once carried a stigma, are increasingly accepted and sometimes even sought.

It’s not just about the brewer’s preference for cans or bottles. Some purport that bottles protect the beer better, while many claim the same for cans. Of course brewers and brewery owners are not immune to the same personal preferences that sway decisions for customers. So their claims of logic in the decision are likely blemished by bias also.

To try and figure it out, since undertaking MicroBrewr last June, I’ve asked every guest of the podcast this same, simple question: Cans or bottles?

Some people think the debate is dead, but clearly people are still talking about it. It’s still worth discussing. Some of the guests find the question difficult to answer and some find it quite a dilemma.

Check out a more in-depth study of their answers in my contribution to The Session 98:

Cans or Bottles? 27 industry experts reveal their preference.

And here’s the page with ongoing tabulations.

 

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Here are the other contributions:

David Preston at Beer Tinted Spectacles writes a bunch about milliliters. Evidently the bloke is a Britton. I had to keep Googling conversions. He calls a 12-oz. can a small can, and says that’s the common size in the U.K. for soda, but not so much for beer, in which they have a much wider variety of serving sizes. In the U.K., beer in cans can be bought in 14-oz., 16-oz., or 19-oz. varieties. Be careful when you order a pint in Great Britain, you’ll probably get a 19-oz. “Imperial Pint” rather than the 16-oz. size you’re used to in the U.S.

His piece isn’t just about serving size. I really like that Preston dives into the whole notion of perception. “We say rational. We do irrational,” he admits. And it’s not up to us. The views of “opinion formers”—brewery owners—“are now impacting drinkers behaviour and perceptions.” But who cares he asks, “If beer drinkers become accepting of both, then that’s good for beer isn’t it?” Tune in for the plot twist that he sends us on in the last graph.

The Beer Nut writes from Ireland, next door to—but not part of—the U.K., which would be Northern Ireland. To commemorate The Session, he drinks and writes about 4 British beers, one of them is from a can. Mostly his piece just makes me thirsty. He does provide a link to another blog that argues against the ability of lower priced canning lines to seal out air. Alas, he writes, “For the moment I’m not fussed what a brewery puts its beer in, as long as what comes out is [high quality].”

Another Dubliner, Reuben Gray at The Tale Of The Ale, writes of one canned beer: “I’m not going to talk about the beer inside the can because it tastes the same as the draught version.” Then he presents pros and cons for cans and for bottles. In his presentation cans do seem best. Yet he does remind us in an asterisk that the plastic liner inside cans is made of plastic, which contains chemicals, a point that I keep having trouble getting past.

Jeremy Short at Pintwell writes specifically about a taste test of “a classic”: Pilsner Urquell. This beer lost a recent taste test among his friends, but he loves it. He has his wife pour the canned version and the bottled version so he can do a blind side-by-side comparison. Perhaps not a scientific study, “I had 50/50 odds anyway,” he admits. He doesn’t need such odds in his favor. “It was mind blowing to me how different the two beers were.”

You’ll have to read his post to find out which he prefers. Though I’d take it with a word of caution. I’ve done 2 separate cans versus bottles blind taste tests with friends. It was usually pretty easy to discern a difference in appearance, aroma, and flavor, but sometimes is was the canned beer that we preferred, and sometimes it was the bottled beer.

Related: Cans or Bottles? Surprising results from two blind taste tests

Derrick Peterman writes at Ramblings of a Beer Runner. “Plenty of beers come and go,” he writes, “but we’ve just got one planet. So the question for me boils down to whether bottles or cans are better for the environment?” Great point. I used to make my entire voting decisions based on this one notion. But I don’t mean to turn this into a political discussion. He writes of pollution during transportation, chemicals and energy use during manufacturing, percent recycled content. And finally he concedes, “No one really knows,” and he cites sources for this.

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” is the phrase. And they’re listed in order of importance. Kegs and growlers are meant for reusing. And Peterman offers a neat, recycled (if I may) solution for single-use containers, too.

Alan McLeod from the Beer Blog has an interesting contribution, albeit a recycled one (there I did it again). He repurposes a post from 2006 that includes emails with the “Lead Singer” of Oskar Blues Brewery. Of course Oskar Blues is something of a pioneer for craft beer in cans. We have them to thank for their foresight and risk-taking, at the time anyway. As it turns out, the whole thing was some sort of a sick joke. Check out the piece for the full story and the definitive history of how we came to enjoy great craft beer in cans everywhere.

Craig, or someone else, at Oregon Beer Life kind of writes off the topic. I mean he wrote it off. I mean he wrote… Gosh it’s getting late. Well, he said that he has already written so much about this topic, that it seems like he has nothing more to write. Instead he just links to some other posts, mostly cans versus bottles taste tests.

Then a discussion at a book signing urged him to write more. He points out that mobile canning lines and mobile bottling lines make it cheaper than ever for startup breweries to put their beer and their dreams into packaging for distribution. “It’s increasingly less important these days,” he says, “for startup breweries to have to consider can or bottle packaging equipment if this option is available to them.” It’s a great point. I agree with him that, “to a certain extent I don’t think this question is as necessary when considering starting a brewery as it once was.” What great times in which we live…

Dan “the web nerd” of Community Beer Works ponders that they will one day have to make this decision for their brewery. In the meantime, fearing nothing new to contribute to the discussion, he does a taste test. His is not blind, he apparently poured the beer for himself. Although, I appreciate his efforts to keep it as “scientific” as possible. (His quotation marks, not mine.) Like Short at Pintwell, Dan notices a significant difference between the two.

“I can only say that because I’m sitting here doing my damndest to compare the two,” he admits. “If I had the bottle today and the can next week I probably wouldn’t notice much difference.”

After that, he throws us for loop. Then he admits, it’s all about laziness.

Liam at Drunken Speculation seems… I’m not sure what he seems. I’m not sure what to make of his feelings on the topic, although this is purportedly his first contribution to The Session in 6 months. So that helps alleviate some of my worries shared by some previous hosts about my topic being unworthy. He says bottles are preferred by Che Guevara, Richard Nixon, Joseph Stalin, and somehow genocide. “So I suppose you can have your bottles if you hate freedom,” he writes.

It seems Liam prefers cans. My favorite of his arguments against bottled beer is: “Get off your high horse you elitist prick.” And that cans will save the polar bear. It’s definitely entertaining, which I think might be the point.

Sean Inman at Beer Search Party is our “Lewis and Clark” of finding great beer. Not sure he’s the right guide for this party as he has “swung from bottles to cans and back and forth like a pendulum.” But he does attempt to sate my desire for “empirical evidence” about the question at hand. He does so with a list, 4 points a brewery should ponder when considering which package to use. He seems to present this lightly and with humor. Yet he offers good points for all brewery marketing, not just the choice in packaging.

Finally, Stan Hieronymus from Appellation Beer and one of the 2 co-hosts of The Session, is most concerned with beer aroma. “I’m not inclined to want to stick my nose up to that half-inch wide opening in the can,” he cautions.

My sister once licked the lid of a can of bean dip and cut her tongue deeply. I thought I would cut my finger deeply when I once got it stuck in the opening of a soda can. (It turned out okay in the end.)

Like McLeod from Beer Blog, Hieronymus quotes an email from Oskar Blues, who says beer should be poured from the can into a drinking glass. Yet, people are drinking from cans, Hieronymus says. He pours his into a glass. Me too.

Related: The Session 97: Up and coming beer locations

Conclusion

So those are some thoughts on the debate. Those are some ideas to ponder when trying to decide how to package your beer.

There are many factors to consider. And some people are still pretty adamant for either cans or bottles. Luckily, these days great beer is put into both types of packaging, and both types are doing very well in the marketplace.

Stay tuned for The Session 99 hosted by Fuggled, who has chosen the topic: Mile Ale. Keep an eye out for their announcement coming soon, or check back at The Sessions HQ.

Thanks everybody for contributing. Sorry if I missed anyone, leave a comment below and I’ll try to add it or something.

LATE ENTRY:

Jack Perdue at Deep Beer does love his beer in bottles. It’s a bit of a romance for him. He tickles a little at the logical reasons, but ultimately, for him, it comes down to movies, one movie in particular, The Shawshank Redemption. He linked to a clip and I watched it in-line with the reading. So now I might be biased as well.

 

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MicroBrewr 059: How to get the most out of a beer festival, with SuperFly Fabulous Events.

MicroBrewr 059: How to get the most out of a beer festival

Beer festivals are an important part of a startup brewery’s marketing plan. Stephanie Carson and SuperFly Fabulous Events in Asheville, North Carolina put on 11 beer festivals every year.

I asked her, how much do beer festivals play a part in a startup brewery’s existing marketing plan?

“I think it’s everything,” says Stephanie. “A startup brewery is not going to have the marketing budget, they’re not going to have the advertising budget, they might not even have a contact at a good distributor.”

“So I think attending a festival is really important.”

When you’re getting ready to attend a festival as a brewery, you’ll need to make sure you have several items. Some events will provide these, so always check beforehand to make sure you know what you’ll need to bring.

Stephanie says to make sure you have these items:

  • Creative looking tap handles
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) canisters
  • Ice
  • Jockey box
  • Tent/awning
  • Items to sell
  • Something to entice the customers back to your brewery

The beer festival is a key part of getting your product out to the public. People attending the beer festival are your core customers: They love craft beer, and they seek out new beers.

There are some things that you can do to best leverage your presence at the festival. Make a good impression, initiate contacts, and turn those into long-term customers.

This is what Stephanie recommends to get the most out of a beer festival:

  • Help promote the event.
  • Be organized and on time.
  • Give a creative take-home item, so the attendees will remember you.
  • Bring a unique beer that is not available elsewhere.

“With so many craft breweries opening up, you can’t just have your old standards.” [Tweet This]

Listener question:

From Conrad B.: Why do you do what you do?

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Dark beers

Other resources:

You can reach Stephanie Carson and SuperFly Fabulous Events at:

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Cans or bottles? 27 industry experts reveal their preference.

Cans or bottles? 27 industry experts reveal their preference

The Session Beer Blogging Friday by Brookston Beer Bulletin The data for this post is kept current here.

This is my entry to The Session 98 that I announced last week. Stay tuned for a round up of posts from other bloggers answering the same question: Cans or bottles?

Read the roundup: The Session 98 roundup: Cans or bottles?

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts The Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. (Find more info on Brookston Beer Bulletin.)

It looks like the host slot for the May session is still open, so if you’re interested in hosting The Session 99, drop a note to Jay (.) Brooks (@) gmail (.) com or Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer. His e-mail is stan (@) appellationbeer (.) com.

 

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Cans or Bottles? 27 industry experts reveal their preference

Cans or bottles? I ask this question of every guest on MicroBrewr Podcast. I think it’s an interesting study into both industry and consumer trends.

The craft beer industry is neat, in that the producers are often consumers as well. When a brewery owner answers this question, she gives her perspective not only as a manufacturer of an alcoholic beverage product, but also as a consumer of beer.

MicroBrewr is about how to start a brewery. A bottling line or a canning line is a substantial financial investment. So this question is a significant consideration to anyone starting a brewery. It brings varied and interesting answers.

At episode 14 of MicroBrewr Podcast, I started asking each guest the simple question, “Cans or bottles?” We’re now at episode 58, so we have a decent sampling of industry insiders.

The answers below were culled from MicroBrewr podcast episodes 14 through 58. With 44 respondents (one of the episodes was myself), the overall results were as follows.

Preference from guests on MicroBrewr podcast Count Rate
Cans 19 43%
Bottles 12 27%
Both 12 27%
Aluminum bottles 1 2%

Cans are preferred by 43 percent of the respondents, while bottles are preferred by 27 percent. That’s a 16 percent margin.

Furthermore, 27 percent of people could go either way. If you take the respondents who said they don’t prefer one over the other, and add them to the ones who prefer bottles outright, that’s 54 percent, beating out can fans by 11 percent.

Yet, if you threw a party with only canned beer, you’d satisfy 70 percent of your guests (43% + 27%). Whereas if you provided only bottled beer, just 54 percent of your guests would be happy (27% + 27%).

One respondent threw a curve ball. Philipsburg Brewing Company says that they are planning to package their beer in aluminum bottles.

“The canning machines… are awfully hard on beer,” said Mike Elliott from Philipsburg Brewing Company. “We’re looking for a away to utilize the convenience of aluminum, but get away from the problems with the canners. The machines for bottling on a small scale, like we need, have been much longer in development. Whereas the canning process is still pretty new and they’re still kind of refining the technology.”

I’ll continue to tabulate the answers.

So check here for the latest results.

In meantime, I was eager to dig in deeper. So I looked at the answers more closely.

 

The answers are affected by opinion

The first thing I noticed was that the answers seemed largely based on opinion. Simply put, people are biased and they have strong opinions about this topic.

From most of the guests, I could hear a change in the tone of their voice when they answer this question. It seems like their opinion is swayed by personal perception.

Oftentimes I perceived even a raised voice or an excited tone.

“Oh cans, all the way,” says Zachary Typinski from Neighborhood Brewing Co.

“Cans!” exclaims Nigel Askew from Horsefly Brewing Company. “Absolutely! There’s no competition.

“Cans, no doubt,” says Paul Benner from Platform Beer Co.

“Cans, totally 100 percent,” says Matt Katase from The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company. “I cannot wait until we start putting beer into cans.”

I do admit, this question is the first in a series of what I call “happy hour” on the show. The happy hour questions are meant to be light, friendly and informal. This could explain the change in the tone of their voice.

Some of the guests realized that their answer was based simply on opinion.

“I prefer bottles,” says Ted Sobel at Brewers Union Local 180. “I don’t know, I just prefer glass. There’s something I like about glass. Cans, I don’t know… cans remind me of cheap tin beer for some reason.”

“I have no objection to cans. I have no objection to bottle,” says Kyle Roth from Ferndock Brewing Co. “Certain beers I would rather have in a can. Take it on a boat, take it on the golf course. Some I would rather have in a bottle sitting on the dinning room table. That’s just my preference, I guess.”

“I actually used to collect beer cans so I had kind of a nice soft spot for cans,” admits Shaun O’Sullivan from 21st Amendment Brewery.

Modern cans for packaging beer are different from the their predecessors. New technologies have improved the packaging. Some guests seem to like cans because it’s a new thing.

“I gotta says cans,” says Randal Denver from Yards Brewing Company. “I think that’s the future of the industry.”

“I’m always looking on the newer and greater sort of things,” admits Audra Gaiziunas from Brewed For Her Ledger, “and I really like cans.”

“The new wave is cans,” says Brett Tate from Dust Bowl Brewing Company. “It seems to me that if you don’t do both [cans and bottles] in the future, you’re probably missing the boat.”

The question is difficult to answer

Several people found the question difficult to answer.

“Both,” answers Nick Ellis from Opposition Brewing Co. “Do I have to pick one?”

For some, it is a downright struggle to pick one packaging over the other.

“Cans,” says Cathy Smith from Philipsburg Brewing Company. “Or bottle!” she quickly changed her answer. “Or what? Oh, God—I don’t know.”

Mike Elliott was on the same call and he also had a difficult time answering.

“Oh, that’s hard,” he laments. “I love aluminum, but I hate cans. Let’s put it that way.”

For some, the dilemma is even troublesome.

“This is a really challenging question because from a science perspective cans are definitely a superior package,” says Chris Goulet from Birdsong Brewing Company. “But for me… in college and in my early career… it’s interesting because I always associated cans with crappy beer. So I guess I’m kind of personally at a conflict.”

“You don’t want to break glass by the pool,” offers Danny Robinson from Backshore Brewing Co. “Bottles… personally, I enjoy drinking out of bottles. The whole argument of what’s better, I don’t know. Honestly, I’ll take either one.”

“Whoa,” reflects Henry Thornhill from West Cork Brewing Company. “I was listening to Dan Gordon, he described, technically, how superior bottles were because less contact with the air. Up until that, I was going, ‘Cans, that’s the way to move forward,’ but now I’m re-assessing.”

Tiffany Adamowski from 99 Bottles beer store was politically correct in her answer.

“I almost always go bottles, just because there’s more variety,” she calculates. “But for storage, I prefer cans.”

Environmental stewardship affects the decision

Many guests cited the environmental benefits of cans over bottles.

Nigel Askew pointed out that aluminum cans weigh much less than glass bottles. Lighter weight, means lower transportation costs and the associated emissions.

“It’s lighter. Much more environmentally conscious,” he says. “Much more recyclable. Very few recycling places have the ability to crush the glass then re-melt it.”

Besides weight, the size of a can allows for more to be shipped in the same space, which additionally saves on transportation costs.

“It’s more portable in the sense that you can put 110 cases of cans on a pallet versus 70 for glass,” offers Shaun O’Sullivan. “I think 70 percent of all cans are recycled.”

“I also like being able to crush the cans,” says Todd Cook from Boulder Dam Brewing Company, “it makes my recycling thing a lot easier.”

Doing the right thing for the environment often translates to benefits for the bottom line.

“[Cans are] more environmentally friendly,” says Audra Gaiziunas. As an accounting consultant for breweries, she’s constantly thinking of the bottom line. “They’re not rising at the cost that glass is. I like them for transportation.”

 

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Product longevity affects the decision

Many people spoke about shelf life of their product.

“Technically speaking, cans are a superior packaging for beer,” says Nick Ellis. “There’s no argument. It protects the beer more than bottles.”

“We’re in bottles right now, 100 percent,” says Rich Weber from Sierra Blanca Brewing Company. “I think, ultimately I may end up [putting my product] in cans. I do like glass for my product, though. But no headspace, very low air, no light is appealing as well, in the cans.”

“Until 6 months ago, when I started doing serious research, I would have said bottles,” says Myles Stone from Borderlands Brewing Co. Myles knows about research, he started the brewery when he was in his second year of medical school. “Cans are like little, mini kegs. They block out all the light, they block out all the oxygen. They’re really shelf-stable.”

And Myles’ affinity for cans goes beyond the research to practical reasons.

“If you drop it, you pick it up, versus getting the mop if you drop a bottle,” he says. “You can take them to the beach, you can take them on the trail. I’m a big, big fan of cans.”

But there’s conflicting data. A few guests on the podcast have given statistics about how either cans or bottles are superior packaging.

“I was just talking to our lab guy their other day,” says Mark Carpenter, Brewmaster at Anchor Brewing. “The cans have the lowest air count. So the beer is going to last in cans. That’s keeps the brewer happy.”

Then there’s the argument for bottles, too.

“You can’t put a vacuum on a can. You can put a vacuum on a bottle so a double pre-evacuation filler is going to get you the best beer quality ever. That gets you oxygen content under 50 parts per billion of dissolved oxygen [in the bottle],” asserts Dan Gordon from Gordon Biersch Brewing Company. “So there’s minimal contact of any air with a beer when you’re filling a bottle.”

“That’s not the case with the can,” he continues. “With the can you have a large surface area, the top of the can diameter is exactly what’s being exposed to air during the process. And there’s transition between the filling of the can and the seaming of it, to put the top cover on it. So the oxygen content that you can get on a good filler is probably around 60-80 parts per billion. We average in our brewery about 20 parts per billion of oxygen [in bottles]. So the shelf life is much longer in a bottle than it is in a can.”

He doesn’t stop at dissolved oxygen.

“Let’s face it: The cases are sealed. The bottles aren’t going to be exposed to light that much.” The amber glass is also “filtering out a lot” of the light, he says. “And light reaction versus oxygenation, I’ll take light stuck any day of the week.”

Besides lab data from the brewery itself, I can’t help but wonder where the statistics are coming from. Obviously, the canning industry has an interest in making their packaging sound like it’s going to protect the beer more, but the bottle manufacturers have an interest in selling their product as well.

I’m interested to see any studies from an unbiased third party that covers a large sampling on a broad range of equipment.

RELATED: Cans or bottles? Surprising results from two blind taste tests

 

Portability and accessibility affect the decision

Many guests believe that cans allow their product to go more places.

“Cans, in Florida,” says Justin Stange from 7venth Sun Brewery, which was the first brewery in Florida to can a Berliner Weisse, a very popular beer style there. “We’ve got a lot of outdoor activities where bottles are restricted.”

“It is an outdoor state, so that’s kind of why we’re really researching it,” says Rich Weber in New Mexico. “There’s a lot of hiking, biking, mountain climbing, rafting, things like that, a lot of places that cans can go.”

“In Montana, the can is really popular,” says Mike Elliott, “because you can take a can outside to recreate and stuff.”

“[Cans] are much more easy to travel with,” says Brian Kelly from Elevation 66 Brewing Co. “and less chance for breaking them. So yeah, cans.”

Taking beer into the outdoors might not be such an important issue everywhere.

“I think in America people say how they’re going out and go hiking, and backpacking outdoors, you can take cans. That really isn’t the culture in Ireland,” says Henry Thornhill who co-founded a brewery there. “People drink [from] bottles at parties, barbecues, and stuff like that, but you wouldn’t go walking the hills and then have a can. I guess it’s just a bit more of culture thing, really.”

“In the last few years, there’s been an upsurge in outdoor activities. If you were bringing beer, people might think you’re a bit different, let’s say,” he advises.

I ask for clarification through the nuances of language. “Might think you’re a boozer, huh?”

“Yeah,” he cautions.

Cans still have a stigma

People who prefer cans are usually very enthusiastic about it. Yet there are holdouts for the bottle.

Oftentimes, people who prefer bottles are so confident in their answer and their preference that they don’t feel a need to elaborate.

“Bottles,” succinctly answers Matt Greff from Arbor Brewing Company.

“Myself, a bottle,” says Patty Elliot from Pecan Street Brewing (no relation to Mike Elliott).

“Bottle,” stated Eilise Lane from Scarlet Lane Brewing Company.

I pressed her further.

“You asked cans or bottles,” she laughed. “Bottles.”

Then she explained more. “There’s something about a bottle that just feels right for me. I know cans are great, I drink craft from can and it’s good beer. It’s a way to do it. But for me personally, I am looking forward to bottling. I just feel like it matches what we’re doing.

“When you are a bottle fan you are just a bottle fan,” she concludes.

Customers as well as producers perceive the stigma that cans bear.

“In New Mexico, some breweries are in cans and [some are in] bottles,” says Rich Weber. “Some are doing well and some are not doing well in cans. It’s kind of, you don’t know if it’s the package, it’s what’s in the package, or [simply] the packaging.”

“There’s still that stigma of a can,” admits Erich Allen from Studio Brew. “Case in point: I was standing at an incredible beer store one evening. And I was looking at a bottle of beer. It had the basket and the crown cap with the cork and the whole thing. And it was $32—$32 for a 750-milliliter bottle! And to the side of it was a can. And it was probably 32 to 34 ounces, standing there next to it for $8. Can I justify myself for buying that bottle for $32? Of course I did! On the $8? Well, I went ahead and bought it.”

Then he pauses.

“I got to tell you, the one in the can was just as good!”

And the stigma does seem to be waning.

“When we first started, it was interesting because we talked more about the can itself than the beer inside,” recalls Shaun O’Sullivan who co-founded his brewpub in 2000 and started packaging their beer for distribution—in cans only—in 2006.

“Cans have been hugely successful in the industry,” reports Mark Carpenter. “It’s what the public wants and accepts. Cans certainly seem to be accepted, and we’ve started canning. I think we’re going to see more can—customers like them. I think you’re going to see both cans and bottles around.”

“Once I kind of saw the light,” reveals Shaun O’Sullivan, “like, ‘Wow, this is going to be big,’ when Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium and especially Samuel Adams, I knew once those guys went into the cans, that this package was going to be accepted by beer drinkers and would be around forever.”

Whether packaging your craft beer product or just buying a brew, opinions and perception vary widely.

In the craft beer industry, producers are consumers. Among this set of producers and industry insiders, more people prefer canned beer. As canning technology improves and as the stigma of “cheap tin beer” fades, we’re seeing even more beer in cans.

But does the packaging affect the beer? That’s an important question that also draws varying opinions.

Stay tuned for the next post, where I talk about 2 blind taste tests that I did with friends to find the answer to the question: Cans or bottles?

 

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MicroBrewr 058: Be confident to get where you need to go, with Stone Brewing Co.

MicroBrewr 058: Be confident to get where you need to go

Laura Ulrich is the small batch brewer at Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, California. She has worked there for 11 years, after working in the bottling line at Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“Twelve years ago,” says Laura, “There wasn’t a focus on having the degree in brewing.” She says she would have liked to take more science classes to understand the technical sides of brewing.

It doesn’t seem to be hindering her. She created the widely popular Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean.

Laura has worked on the bottling line, in the cellar, and finally in the brewhouse. “Everybody’s gotta work together to make the end product get to the public,” she says.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 2, 120-BBL brewing systems.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 68, 400-BBL fermenters; 6, 150-BBL.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 2, 150-BBL; one, 390-BBL; 5, 650-BBL; 4, 850-BBL.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: Brewed 285,075 BBL in 2014.

Square footage: 55,000 sq. ft. brewery, with 65,000 sq. ft. packaging hall.

Years in operation: 18 years (opened August 1996).

“If you really want it, you can have it.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From John D.: What’s your least favorite style of beer?

Book recommendation:

  • “I haven’t been reading books, I’m awful. I need to get back into it.”

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

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An upcoming beer style:

Session IPA

Other resources:

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Laura is on Twitter at:

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MicroBrewr 057: Create new revenue streams for your brewpub, with Wisconsin Dells Brewing Co.

MicroBrewr 057: Create new revenue streams for your brewpub

Jamie Baertsch did an internship with Wisconsin Dells Brewing Co., in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, and she stuck around until they started paying her. Today she’s the brewmaster, winning awards for her beer, and planning the expansion to a production facility.

Wisconsin Dells Brewing Co. is the brewing part of Moosejaw Pizza brewpub, which experiences 50% of their sales just in the summer months. During that time the brewing capacity is maxed out, but in the rest of the year it’s much slower. To keep busy and to make up for lost revenues in the slow times of the year, Wisconsin Dells Brewing how found creative ways to find income.

Besides a variety of beers, Wisconsin Dells also makes a line of hand-crafted soda beverages. Additionally, they put their beer into cans and bottles for off-site distribution.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 15 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 4, 15-BBL fermenters; 1, 30-BBL fermenter.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 2, 30-BBL bright tanks for beer; 9, 15-BBL bright tanks for beer; 4, 16-BBL bright tanks for soda; 2, 2-BBL bright tanks for soda.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 1,405.70 BBL.

Square footage: 200 sq. ft. brewhouse, 2 walk-in coolers, 3 large warehouses, 2 forklifts, one truck, 2 pallet jacks.

Years in operation: 13 years (opened May 2002).

“I spent 12 years learning how to brew. And now packaging is a whole new thing.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From 76Johnyb: Where do you get inspiration for your unique brews?

Book recommendation:

  • Phone book.

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Red IPA

Other resources:

You can reach Jamie Baertsch and Wisconsin Dells Brewing Co. at:

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MicroBrewr 056: Applying organic chemistry to brewing, with Golden Road Brewing.

MicroBrewr 056: Applying organic chemistry to brewing

Nadia Vazirzadeh had only a bachelor’s degree in biology, zero knowledge of beer, when she started working on the quality control team at Golden Road Brewing, Los Angeles, California.

“I knew I wanted to do something the rest of my life that I loved,” she says. “I still had people trying to convince that, ‘Don’t you want to be a doctor? What’s beer really doing for anybody?’ I take pride in what I do in the beer industry. I think it’s really important. I really like what I do and this alone is really fulfilling to me.”

As part of her job to make sure that the brewery brings consistently great beer, her daily duties are:

  • Check gravities
  • Get yeast for new batches of beer
  • Use the alcolyzer
  • Conduct grist analysis
  • Check IBUs
  • Put together sensory tasting for staff
Nadia Vazirzadeh, at Golden Road Brewing, convinced the 7 brewers into dressing up like Snow White's 7 Dwarves for Halloween.

Nadia Vazirzadeh, at Golden Road Brewing, convinced the 7 brewers into dressing up like Snow White’s 7 Dwarves for Halloween. Source: Facebook.

Nadia recommends reading about what you’re working with and reading about other breweries. “Everybody does something different,” she says. “Read. That’s really my main recommendation.”

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 50 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 16, 300-BBL fermenters, including some conversion tanks.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 3, 200-BBL.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: About 30,000 BBL in 2014.

Square footage: 32,000 sq. ft.

Years in operation: 3.5 years (founded 2011).

“I knew I wanted to do something the rest of my life that I loved.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From Pour & Beerded: How did you get yourself to make the leap to go all in or nothing? Especially if you quit a decent job…

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sour beer

Other resources:

You can reach Nadia Vazirzadeh and Golden Road Brewing at:

Sponsors:

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MicroBrewr 055: Use contract brewing to de-risk, with minimal cash injection with Two Birds Brewing.

MicroBrewr 055: Use contract brewing to de-risk with minimal cash injection

If you’re like me, you don’t have a million dollars to start the brewery of your dreams. If you have brewing skills and can create recipes, contract brewing could be a way to create a product and establish a customer base with minimal initial investment. That’s how Jayne Lewis and Danielle Allen started Two Birds Brewing in Spotswood, Victoria, Australia.

Jayne and Danielle were longtime friends when they realized they each shared long-term life goals. Danielle had a background in marketing and sales, while Jayne had years of experience as a commercial brewer.

Nine months after they made the decision, they were working for themselves. For about 3 years Jayne brewed on dozens of other systems. Finally, about 9 months ago, they had increased their brand and their market enough to open their own package brewery.

Their whole business has been financed by themselves. So they don’t have outside investors.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 18 hL (15-BBL).

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 4, 36 hL (4, 30-BBL fermenters). 2, 72 hL (2, 60-BBL) due in June 2015.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 36 hL (30-BBL). 72 hL (60-BBL) due in June 2015.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production:

Square footage: 460 sq. m. (4,951 sq. ft.).

Years in operation: The production brewery has been operating for 9 months (opened June 2014). The brand has been operating for 3 years and 9months (opened June 2011).

“You’ve gotta do what you have to do, in order to do what you want to do.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From Chris Tiffany: How do you preserve fresh hop character, especially aroma, when bottles may sit for a while before being enjoyed?

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sour beers

Other resources:

  • Pink Boots Society to empower women beer professionals to advance their careers in the beer industry through education.
  • Pink Boots Society Australia on Facebook.
  • International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day.
  • MicroBrewr 002: Using a Flagship Beer To Build a Brand w/ Alamo Beer.
  • MicroBrewr 015: Randal Denver’s advice for a homebrewer who wants to become a professional brewer.

You can reach Jayne Lewis and Two Birds Brewing at:

Jayne and Danielle on social media:

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MicroBrewr 054: Start a debt-free nanobrewery, with Great Storm Brewing.

MicroBrewr 054: Start a debt-free nanobrewery

We all have a dream to start a brewery. Many of us don’t have the money required to start the brewery of our dreams. Lynn Jacobs and her husband, Jeff, started Great Storm Brewing in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with no debt. Best of all: They started making a profit immediately.

Great Storm Brewing opened in March 2012 with a 1-BBL system. Lynn and Jeff worked hard at first. But after 6 months they hired the first employee. The success has been so great that they contract brew larger batches under “alternative proprietorship” to help meet demand.

Now approaching their third anniversary, Great Storm Brewing has 8 employees and they’re preparing to install a 10-BBL system.

Lynn’s advice to someone who wants to start a brewery:

  • Save money
  • Practice your brewing
  • Create something you can duplicate on a larger scale

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 1 BBL; in the process of expanding to 10-BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 10, 1-BBL fermenters; expanding to 3, 15-BBL.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: none; will get tanks with the new system.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: Current 260; last year 187; new system will be 390-BBL.

Square footage: 3,750 sq. ft.

Years in operation: 3 years (opened March 2012).

“As soon as you reach one goal, you make another for yourself.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From Russ Neis: How do you adjust a recipe from 10 gallons to a 7 BBLs or more?

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Experimental beers

Other resources:

You can reach Lynn Jacobs and Great Storm Brewing at:

Sponsors:

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The Session 98 announcement: Cans or bottles?

The Session 98 announcement: Cans or bottles?

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts The Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. (Find more info on Brookston Beer Bulletin.)

The last time was “Up-and-Coming Beer Locations,” hosted by Our Tasty Travels. The topic for The Session this month is: Cans or bottles?

Read the roundup: The Session 98 roundup: Cans or bottles?

I ask this same question to every guest of MicroBrewr Podcast. I think it’s an interesting study into both industry and consumer trends.

The craft beer industry is neat, in that the producers are often consumers as well. When a brewery owner answers this question, she gives her perspective not only as a manufacturer of an alcoholic beverage product, but also as a consumer of beer.

A bottling line or a canning line is a substantial financial investment. So this question is a significant consideration to anyone starting a brewery.

The answers give great insight. However, one thing I see lacking from the discussion is solid data.

Of course aluminum can manufacturers and glass bottle manufacturers each have an interest in showing their packaging is best. I have heard a lot of arguments on both sides, even data and statistics, but I haven’t heard many references from third-party studies. If you can offer this, that would be a great help.

In any case, I’m looking forward to reading the answers not only to see where the consumer trends are going, but also as research for the brewery I dream of opening.

Read: Cans or Bottles? 27 industry experts reveal their preference

What’s your perspective?

Will you write from the consumer point of view? From which kind of packaging do you prefer to drink beer? Why do you prefer that packaging?

Will you write from a manufacturer perspective? How do you want your brand portrayed? Which packaging suits your beer best?

Will you write from a distributors perspective? Which packaging do you prefer to transport and stock at retail locations?

Some other insight?

RELATED: Cans or bottles? Surprising results from two blind taste tests

To participate in The Session Beer Blogging Friday, leave a comment below with a link to your post on or before the first Friday of the month, April 3, 2015.

So far, The Session next month is still open. If you want to host The Session 99, check out the guidelines and reserve the next free month or any specific month not yet taken. To do this, please contact Jay (.) Brooks (@) gmail (.) com or Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer via email at stan (@) appellationbeer (.) com.

 

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MicroBrewr 053: Pink Boots Society empowers women in beer, with Teri Fahrendorf.

MicroBrewr 053: Pink Boots Society empowers women in beer

Teri Fahrendorf had been brewing professionally for 19 years when she went on a road trip. She visited 71 breweries, brewed at 38 of them, and blogged the whole way. Throughout the trip, she did meet a few other women working in craft beer. They always asked whether there were others. So they started the Pink Boots Society.

Pink Boots Society is a non-profit to empower women beer professionals to advance their careers in the beer industry. Today, Pink Boots Society has over 1,500 members in 40 chapters worldwide.

You don’t have to be a brewer to be a member of Pink Boots Society. As long as you earn income from beer in some way, you can join Pink Boots Society. Members include brewers, loan officers, jewelry makers, lawyers, and blog editors.

Roles for women have traditionally been volunteer roles, says Teri, like child rearing or housekeeping. Consequently, modern society often expects women to work in volunteer positions.

“Your value that you are putting into the world,” says Teri, “needs to be recognized in a value that the world recognizes, which is cash.”

In addition to moral support and educational seminars, Pink Boots Society has a scholarship fund for women in the beer industry.

CALL FOR HELP:

Volunteers needed

Pink Boots Society is an almost entirely volunteer organization. So they’re always looking for more women to join and for volunteers. If you are a statistician or can work with data and numbers, Pink Boots Society needs your help. Get in touch with them here or through the contact info below.

“Your value that you are putting into the world needs to be recognized.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

If you could ask one question to every brewer or brewery owner, what would you ask? Let me know.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Saison

Other resources:

You can reach Teri Fahrendorf and Pink Boots Society at:

Teri’s other blogs:

Sponsors:

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