Near the start of 2016 I wrote a blog about our bottles, and discussed the future of where we were at with that side of our business. At the time, we had seriously investigated the possibility of canning our beers (I’ll get onto the ‘why?’ shortly) but really the multitude of issues involved in using mobile canning facilities far, far outweighed the potential positives. Quite simply, the compromises in quality and the risks of inconsistencies in the final packaged product just didn’t stack up. Ultimately we are a small and quality focused brewery, and the crux of every decision we make starts and ends with whether it’s the best thing for our beer.
So when we stopped bottling (for info on that decision check out the blog post) we simply transferred that beer production into kegs, as we have never been able to keep up with demand anyway! It was a painful decision though, as we essentially said to a whole host of customers who had supported us ‘you can’t have beer anymore!’. More than that however, was our own personal motivations as brewers and beer drinkers. We do what we do first and foremost because we love creating and drinking great beer. By not bottling we take away our own ability to enjoy our own beers anywhere other than our Tap and the other great bars that support us. So we’ve been working ever since we stopped bottling to find a solution. A solution that ticks all the boxes that we require to allow us to feel comfortable with the process, and be proud of the final product. And we reckon we’ve found it. We came across a small company based in North Wales through our friends down at Tenby Brewing Co. Bespoke Canners are a great little company that specialise in offering a full packaging service. They have a Cask canning line (a Canadian manufacturer who have provided canning lines for the great and the good of the world craft beer scene) that we have been hugely impressed by the performance of. The process is fairly simple. We transfer our beer there in 600L stainless steel conditioning tanks (which we used to use to bottle from). The beer then goes into a cool room and they then chill it down to 1oC (1 - 2 weeks). Once at temperature they transfer the beer into their system and carbonate it. Its then ready to go through their canning line. It is unfiltered and unpasteurised, meaning the beer you taste from our cans will be identical to the beer you will taste on tap. Finally, the beer is palletized back down to us in Bristol where we can then get it on the stock list and out to you folks (after we’ve quality checked it, of course…;-)
There are quite a few companies that offer a similar service in bottling, but there a few reasons we lean towards cans rather than bottles. Are we jumping on a bandwagon? We asked ourselves the same question, as there are certainly a lot of ‘cool’ breweries who have began to can over the last few years. It is a trendy thing to do, and there is a segment of the market that are very attracted to them for the way they look. Has that affected our decision? Perhaps..a little. Ultimately, we (personally) are a part of that segment of the market. Remember, we are beer drinkers just like you folks, and many of the breweries and beers we are attracted too and look up too are canning now. An aspiration to be like them has certainly had a small impact in our decision, but only a small part. How our beer looks is very important to us (and we think the cans look great!), but how it tastes is far more important.
When we look at our brewery as a whole, our overriding goal is to be making good decisions not just for our beers and ourselves, but also for our local community and the environment. We don’t want to just be a business taking from the economy, but a business actively contributing to the people, the businesses and the countryside around us. Cans are not only great for our beer, keeping it fresher by eliminating light damage and reducing oxidation but they are great for our environment too. They weigh significantly less than bottles, meaning we can transport more at a time and reduce our CO2 footprint. They are way more easily recycled than bottles (cans are among the most recycled material on the planet) and they are far safer to drink in the outdoors as a dropped can is picked up, but a dropped bottle is smashed and left to harm.
Cans make sense, and there are greater reasons than ‘being cool’ that are causing such a shift from bottles to cans across the industry.
We sent our first two 600L tanks up to Bespoke last week. We are sent our 2 favorite beers, USPA and IPA and we cannot wait to get them back canned and ready to drink. We only get around 70 cases per batch so availability is still going to be super scarce but we have cases already earmarked for our regular customers. We’ll give you an update as to where you can get your hands on them as they start to go out.
In the meantime, here’s to the next step in our journey. I look forward to enjoying a can of Left Handed Giant with you all sometime!