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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22 replies
  1. Brett
    Brett says:

    Cans, every time.

    For the brewer – cans protect the product better from light and oxidation, improving the chances my customer will enjoy fresh product.

    For the distributor – cans are more durable than bottles, stack more easily, and cost less to ship than glass, saving fuel costs.

    For the retailer – cans are shorter so I can make more efficient use of available cooler space. Cans offer more branding real estate than a dye-cut paper bottle label.

    For the consumer – cans cool faster, are lighter than glass, and can travel to places where glass isn’t welcome. Cans are easier for me to dispose of, again being light and widely accepted for recycling.

    Personally, my preference for cans is so complete it has shaped my brand preferences. Craft brewers with canned offerings get 90% of my beer money. I have heard the environmental impact of cans equals glass (owing to the environmental costs of bauxite mining) but nonetheless for me it’s all about cans.

  2. Peggy
    Peggy says:

    Feels cleaner to me. I totally understand Brett’s point of view though. Just a personally preference for me, putting the environment and product protection aside. ()

    • Nathan Pierce
      Nathan Pierce says:

      Yes, I am also still leaning toward bottles, albeit only slightly. Talking with so many people in MicroBrewr Podcast has opened my eyes to aluminum cans. Thanks for your comment, mom.

  3. Colin Cummings
    Colin Cummings says:

    Personally I’m with Brett on the arguments for cans. While Yellow City Co-op will neither bottle nor can immediately, I would think as a brewery we would lead toward aluminum. You can do much cooler labeling, and the trend is new enough that it’s still novel. Plus I relish the idea of packaging in 16 oz. cans since a pint is the universally preferred serving size in my house.

    • Nathan Pierce
      Nathan Pierce says:

      Oh wow, the 16 oz. can… One pint… I don’t know why I never before made the connection. Although this does raise some interesting marketing questions… Purely from a profit perspective, why sell 16 ounces of beer when I can sell 12 ounces. I think you have forever changed my perspective as a consumer…

  4. Hayden Little
    Hayden Little says:

    Cans, cans, cans 100% and here’s my 2 cents:

    As a Consumer, I’m a little bit on the fence. In one hand, all of the breweries in my market that offer cans are offering them for a higher price point than the 6 pack of bottles from another local brewery. That deters me a lot from drinking the cans, since the ones that have been offered aren’t that great and I’d rather drink a better beer, not just a bottle or can. But, I digress… in a perfect world, as a consumer I’d rather drink cans anyway. My fiance and I love to partake in outdoor activities like going to Drive-Ins (and we’re only in our late 20’s, I hope my generation will bring back Drive-Ins), camping, outdoor concerts/movie screenings, boating and going to the pool, to name a few. And cans are just more durable for that and most places don’t allow bottles anyway if they’re hosting an outdoor event with BYOB, it’s too costly for the liability.

    As a fellow brewery planner, on the Manufacturer side I’m 95%, the other 5% being that I love the idea of producing limited release beers in 750mL bottles. So count me as a can advocate on the Manufacturer side. Why? It’s simple: cost, durability, and marketing (see cost). I want to brand myself as a beer of THE PEOPLE… and cans is a great middle ground for that. You reach the consumer who loves craft beer, loves outdoor activities, loves recycling (yes, I’ve hear the “well bottles are easier and more efficient to recycle blah blah blah” but it’s all the same…), and you can reach all of those consumers with a can. I’ve never heard of anyone being like “*meh* this brewery is in a can, and I’m just a bottle guy so I’m not going to buy it…” WRONG. If the quality is there, they will buy it. Plus, you have a lot more room to utilize a more efficient version of marketing. Sure, you can argue that the 6 pack holder has more space… but when was the last time you kept your beer in a 6 pack container in the fridge? When was the last time you held onto that 6 pack container while drinking your beer? With a can, you have 24/7 (well not exactly, but you get the point) branding and story telling. A can is also 1000 times more durable than a bottle (see Consumer response) so, yea. And lets break down the cost. An efficient bottling line can be almost as expensive as your brewhouse. And so can a canning line. BUT, have you ever heard of a mobile bottler? I haven’t and with the advent and recently explosion of mobile canners, this allows breweries to can their product at a FRACTION OF THE COST. This means your expenses are lower. Now you don’t have a $500k canning line you have to pay back and factor into your cost of goods sold.

    I can’t speak from a distributors perspective because I have 0 personal experience. I do, however, have a ton of 2nd hand experience. A good friend of mine has worked for a local distributor for about as long as I have known him… So right around 7 years. We’ve talked about the ins and outs of not just selling, but fulfilling and merchandising. It’s a lot easier for him to stack cans than it is bottles… and it’s a lot prettier. A bunch of brown boxes stacked under a 6 pack doesn’t look as good as a can display stacked underneath cans, but that’s my opinion.

    I didn’t add this part to my manufacturer section because my last bit of input is probably the most controversial, if you can call it that, and seems to be the most divisive. Awhile back, on one of the earlier podcasts that Nathan did, a brewer talked about trapped oxygen in the package. He said with a can filler you actually leave behind more oxygen that can cause oxidation. I’d like to challenge him and other people who use that argument. It actually leaves behind less, and here’s my theory. The average can hose leaves behind maybe a 1/16th of an inch of air. To which all the haters will say “that’s horrible because there’s so much surface area in a can, the bottle has a fraction of the surface area.” Which is true, but I pose this question and Nathan you should consult with a microbiologist on this one; would you rather have more surface area or more volume? Because sure, a can has more surface area, there’s not getting around that. But a bottle has more volume and to me, I’d rather have less volume because that’s less molecules and less of a probability of causing oxidation.

    In the words of Austin Powers “and I’m spent.”

  5. Nathan Pierce
    Nathan Pierce says:

    Thanks Hayden, for your thoughtful contribution.

    That’s an interesting question about dissolved oxygen. Yes, I recall some guests on MicroBrewr Podcast saying that cans have less dissolved oxygen, and a guest or two saying bottles have less. This is my struggle with any of this “data”: Advocates on either side say that their preference is better. It’s difficult to know what is true.

    And I haven’t heard references to actual studies except in their own brewery labs. It would be interesting to see studies from some unbiased third-parties. And studies testing more than one bottling line vs. more than one canning line. Ideally, a study would look at several breweries, using several different bands of equipment.

  6. Carl Glass
    Carl Glass says:

    I live in Colorado where cans are increasingly used, even by new craft breweries. I am amazed when going to the local liquor store and spotting cans from brand new breweries. I visited Finkel & Garf Brewing after discovering 8 different canned beers. I was told that the canning line (purchased new) allowed them the flexibility of distributing any beer they make, even the small batches. They use paper stick on labels, so they have the requirement of purchasing 90,000 blank cans at a time.

    I have to say that the weight and breaking risk of bottles are two big negatives. When visiting Fort Collins Brewery I noticed the trays under the bottling line were loaded with glass shards and the brewer told me the weight of a pallet of filled bottles and while I don’t remember the number it was quite large.

    Also from a personal stand point, I love the shorter time to cool my beer that comes in cans compared to bottles.
    I will admit that when at home, I pour the beer out of a can into a drinking glass, but when hiking around, the can is the only thing I ever pack.

    • Nathan Pierce
      Nathan Pierce says:

      Thanks for the thoughts, Carl.
      With mobile canning, it’s easier than ever for tiny breweries to start packaging their beer for distribution. It’s often labeled with stickers or shrink-wrap labels. You can hear more about mobile canning on MicroBrewr Podcast 048.
      I usually pour my beer into a glass whether it’s from a can or a bottle. I just like to see it.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Yesterday was the first Friday of the month, meaning time for another round of The Session was in order—collaborative beer blogging, inviting bloggers of all type to participate by sharing their thoughts on a common topic. My post is a day late because I had a book signing event yesterday where, ironically, there was discussion on this month’s topic (suggested and hosted by Nathan Pierce of Microbrewr): Cans or bottles? […]

  2. Session # 98 says:

    […] topic for The Session this month is: Cans or bottles? And our host, the Microbrewr is looking for empirical […]

  3. […] This month’s session is hosted by Nathan Pierce at Microbrewr [sic]. He wants to know about: […]

  4. […] brings together beer bloggers around a common topic under the banner of The Session. This month Micro Brewr hosts, giving us the topic “Cans or […]

  5. […] up this Friday, the 3rd of April, and this month’s host is Microbrewr with the question, Cans or Bottles? Something I’ve written more than a few words […]

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