It was the craft beer equivalent of the Sex Pistols’ release of “Anarchy in the UK” in 1976. In May 2013, London’s Camden Town Brewery defied the status quo by releasing a full-flavored beer in the most reviled package a small-batch brewer could use: the aluminum can.
Camden Town’s overthrow of tradition was made possible by an ACS canning line from Cask Brewing Systems, the inventors of micro-canning for craft brewers. Two more rule-breaking UK craft brewers – Fourpure and Beavertown– soon fired up their Cask machines and England’s canned craft beer revolution was fully underway.
Today 15 punkish UK craft brewers (Rooster’s, Felinfoel, London Beer Factory, Concrete Cow, Williams Brothers and others) fill their cans on their own Cask machines. Over a hundred more count on Cask gear through the UK’s first mobile canning service, WeCan Solutions.
“Early in 2014,” Fourpure co-founder Daniel Lowe recalls, “we were the very first UK-based craft brewery to start canning its core range. This was crucial for us as a differentiator in a market of brown glass.”
Fourpure’s can sales exploded.
In our first month,” he says, “our cans doubled our historic bottle sales. The second month they quadrupled them.
Fourpure reaped more than sales for its move. “Customers expect their beer to be fresh and flavorful,” Lowe says. “With their protection from light and superior seal, cans help us give our customers beer that’s in the best possible condition.”
Beavertown’s exceptional beers — canned on a Cask ACS — fueled massive sales growth and hefty accolades. The London brewery was deemed Supreme Champion Brewer and UK Brewer of the Year in the 2015 International Beer Challenge, and head brewer Jenn Merrick won a top UK brewer award last year as well.
The IBC beers were judged in a blind tasting,” Merrick says, “and our cans absolutely played a role in us winning the awards. It was revolutionary and it really showed a changing of the guard. Cans are the wave of the future.
Yorkshire’s Rooster’s Brewing added cans to its lineup about 18 months ago, packaging its three core beers on a Cask SAMS line. Co-founder Ian Fozzard says the move boosted sales on all levels. “We’re selling everything we can put into cans,” he says, “and the cans have helped us expand into kegged beers and increase our cask sales as well. Our overall sales are up 20% and the can sales are up even more.”
Andy Hughes of mobile service WeCan Solutions launched his company in January 2015 with a Cask SAMS machine. His optimistic expectations for micro-canned beers were tempered by the history of canned beers in the UK.
Cans,” he says, “had always been associated with budget beer drank by older men. So we worried that consumers would turn it down. But that’s not been the case and we’re taking the UK by storm.
“The craft beer market,” Hughes says, “is younger and drinks for flavor, not to get drunk. These modern consumers want a modern beer package, and they see the can as a premium quality package that gives their beer the best protection for that flavor.”
In the company’s first month, WeCan landed 4 brewery customers. That number grew to 20 in four months. WeCan has since become a micro-canning powerhouse that uses three Cask machines to package over 200 different beers for about 120 UK brewers. His brewery client list includes Dark Star, Purity, Vocation, Brighton Beer and Time & Tide.
To keep up with demand, Hughes has ordered two more Cask machines and is expanding his service into Ireland and Holland. He expects his form of beer-culture overthrow to double its canning volume in 2016.
We couldn’t have done this without Cask Brewing Systems,” Hughes says. “Their technology, expertise and service have been fantastic. And the fact that we’ve gotten so many repeat orders from our customers is testimony to the quality of the Cask canning lines.
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