Oh my! Craft beer in cans. Why? A Q&A with Greg Koch

Consumers are used to drink their craft beers and tradional beers like Trappist ales, from a glass bottle. But the times are changing and craft brewers start recognizing the benefits of canned beers. Stone Brewing Berlin fill their beers solely in kegs and cans. Are we ready for this? An interview with Greg Koch, Executive Chairman & co-founder, Stone Brewing Co.

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Greg Koch in Berlin at the grand opening party of Stone Brewing Belin

When and why did Stone decide to choose cans as the right choice for packaging?
Quality and sustainability. By distributing our beers in cans we’re able to better maintain the bold, high-quality flavors our brewing team works so hard to achieve. Aluminum serves as an absolute barrier to oxygen and is the only packaging option with an absolute barrier to light, which prevents “stale” and “skunky” off-flavors. Furthermore, cans are the most efficient and sustainable option for us. We are committed to sustainability and always keep in mind our carbon footprint while delivering the freshest beer possible to fans. Stone Berlin will be our hub for distributing to all European markets – and cans, which can be recycled anywhere, only require one-way transport. We had the option to choose image or reality as our driving decision making factor, and we chose the latter. The image of cans is poor in some countries, however the reality is that they‘re both excellent for the beer as well as the environment.

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Was any consumer research done before deciding?

While we took this into consideration, we did not do any traditional consumer research. Of course, we assessed the markets looking into our options and what is currently most common in Europe and in the US. Ultimately, given our wide distribution range and focus on quality and sustainability, we decided on what we think is best for our beers, our fans and our carbon footprint.
What, according to Stone, are the best beers to pack in cans? Are there any Stone beers that better can be filled & sold in glass bottles

The advantages of canning apply to all of the beer styles we are currently brewing. Some, like a more crisp and refreshing Stone IPA, are especially well suited for a can, as they can be easily transported to outdoor activities with no possibility of breaking.

Are there any marketing advantages?

Absolutely. Cans used to be associated only with “cheap beer” in regions like Germany or the Netherlands, but that’s not the case anymore. Craft beer fans are beginning to understand the quality advantages of cans and this sets us apart from other brewers. With respect to branding and design, cans offer an ideal 360° surface, unlike most bottles.

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Did any consumer ever complain about Stone beer in a can?

Sure! I used to complain about beers in cans! Recognizing the benefits of canned beer is a fairly recent shift and not everyone is on board with it yet. In the US we are actually still bottling many of our beers in addition to canning. It is not our job to convince people that cans are the best option. We want to offer alternatives, a freedom of choice, a variety of styles and flavors. That’s what we do at Stone Brewing and it also applies to our packaging.

Which percentage of the packaged beers will be filled in cans?

Stone Berlin will distribute solely in kegs and cans to the european markets. If you’re in Berlin, you have the added advantage of coming and filling your growlers at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.

US-consumers might be used to buying craft beer in cans. But will Dutch and German beer drinkers appreciate this form of packaging?

We think so! Cans are widely accepted in the US, but still not embraced by everyone. We realize this is a matter of preference and not something that will change overnight, however, we are seeing positive signs that Dutch and German beer drinkers will come around. There are several craft breweries besides us who are already adopting cans, like Beavertown or Brewdog, as well as Bevog in Austria. We’re happy to see this shift taking place, as it’s a sign that fans are embracing the change as we’ve hoped.

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