Do The Can-Can

December 12, 2014, by Crafty Pint

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Do The Can-Can

The cans keep on coming. A couple of weeks ago, we reported on the launch of the first canned beer from WA's Colonial Brewing and now we've been lucky enough to get our hands on the four tinnies from Brisbane's Green Beacon and spoken to Young Henrys about their imminent cans too, cans that are being produced just a few kilometres along the road from Colonial at the Newtown brewery's new western outpost.

"Before we even opened the brewery we were talking about cans. Once we looked at it and what was going to be best for the beer, we knew straight away that was going to work for us," says Green Beacon's brewery general manager Andrew Sydes, who admits there were plenty of challenges along the way.

"Whenever you are doing something first or are one of the first people doing something there are a lot of logistics going into it. There was no craft canning industry here. If you're doing bottling it's OK [as there's existing knowledge and support] but there were just two or three operations in Australia doing cans.

"As with a lot of things in craft beer, we are opening up new territory."

Opening new territory is something with which Young Henrys is familiar too. In little more than two years they've helped break craft beer in a big way throughout Sydney's inner west, collaborated with close to two percent of the Australian population, including making beers with bands such as You Am I, are embarking on their own spirits business (first up: gin) and are opening breweries in multiple states too. The first to become operational is in the Margaret River region with Adelaide and Brisbane next in their sights.

And it's the Margaret River brewery where the cans are being produced. Young Henrys snapped up a 25 hectolitre secondhand DME brewery from Fiji, installed some of the fermenters in Sydney and sent the rest to Metricup, where brewing operations are headed by former Matilda Bay brewer Chloe Lovatt, with Young Henrys stalwart Ben Joseph at her side. The duo will supply draught product for the WA market and send the cans everywhere, while there will be an onsite venue open soon too.

The decision to go with cans was as much about having a point of difference as the usually quoted reasons – portability, practicality, protection, environmental benefits of aluminium over glass, etc.

"We didn't have anything that small in size," says Richard. "We had the two litre growlers and package a small amount of 640ml bottles [at the Newtown brewery] and didn't want to go down the route of 330ml bottles as everyone is doing that. Canning lines have got cheaper and better so are now accessible to the craft beer market.

"I did a presentation to CBIA [the Craft Beer industry Association] and had done a lot of research on recycling and the benefits of recycling glass aren't that great – the most you can achieve is 30 percent. But once aluminium is out the ground it's 100 percent recyclable. It can be used again and again and that's a good story."

When Young Henrys' cans – their Natural Lager, Hop Ale, Cider and, a little later, Real Ale – do arrive, they'll be available in 12-packs rather than sixes or cartons.

"I didn't want to go with the dolphin killers and don't like extra packaging so you can buy one or 12," says Richard. "I think 12 is perfect for going to a party: you don't look like a cheapskate but half the party isn't going to steal your beer! It's really lightweight too so you can walk to the party with them."

In Brisbane, Green Beacon installed a canning line from Canadian manufacturer Cask (who also built and fitted Colonial's machine and Six String's in NSW before that) and released four beers into the local market recently. All four come in eye-catching designs, particularly the Wayfarer American Wheat, and were produced at Visy's relatively new factory outside Brisbane after they struck a deal to work with Green Beacon despite the fact the brewery's entire initial order across the four beers was a mere tenth of what the factory normally produces in a single day.

The beers chosen for the launch are the brewery's Cross Knot Kolsch, a soft and subtle, slightly estery, malt led bright ale, their popular Three Bolt US-inspired pale ale, the highly hopped, bitty and piney Windjammer IPA and aforementioned Wayfarer American Wheat, a clean and ridiculously refreshing drop that we can see proving particularly popular through summer. All cans bear the slogans "Think outside the bottle" and "This beer deserves a glass".

"The product is great," says Andrew of their experiences with Visy. "It was pretty awe-inspiring to walk into this huge facility on the outskirts of Brisbane. We were blown away by how they do it.

"It's early stages but we're really happy with the [beer in cans]. Packaging can be a nightmare at the best of times and hasn't been without its hiccups but we're happy with the way the machine is operating and people in the trade love the cans. The beers are getting some really good kudos."

For now, as with their draught product, you're only likely to find Green Beacon's cans around their hometown.

"Our brewery isn't huge and we are limited in terms of the number of litres we can produce so the big thing for us it so make sure we can supply the customers who have looked after us from the very beginning and that means the local businesses here," says Andrew.

"[As craft brewers] we are already selling a product that 97 percent of Australia isn't interested in yet or feel there's no value in so we're already in an economic niche market that we believe can become mainstream. We're in the business of changing people's perceptions and minds.

"But ultimately it's what's inside the cans that matters."

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