Well, it’s finally happening; Deschutes Brewery has started putting three of their beers in aluminum cans. Starting this month, you can get Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Wonderland Lager and Fresh Squeezed IPA in cans from their taprooms in Bend and Portland, and shipments of those beers will hit their distribution footprint this week. In a press release, Deschutes’ CEO Michael LaLonde joked about the brewery taking so long to adopt cans: “I think we may be the last brewery to put beer in cans, but hey, when your focus is all about making the beer damn tasty, new packaging may take a little longer.”
It is surprising that the Portland-based brewery has taken so long to shift to cans, considering how Deschutes has aligned itself with the great outdoors; Iit’s so much easier to take a beer on a chair lift or trail than a bottle. But Deschutes certainly isn’t the last brewery to start canning.
Even though it might seem like everyone has moved to aluminum cans, the Brewers Association has a fancy graph that shows most craft beer is still sold in bottles. Only 16.7% of total craft production is poured into cans, while 42% of all craft beer makes its way into bottles. In fact, it’s the larger craft breweries that have been slowest to adopt the can trend, which is interesting because cans are a hell of a lot lighter (and cheaper) than bottles to ship. But it’s gotta be a massive investment for a large brewery like Deschutes to switch to cans. I took a look at the most recent list of the 50 biggest craft breweries in the U.S. (Deschutes is listed as the eighth biggest) and found that while Deschutes has been slow to adopt cans, they’re not the last holdout. Of the 50 biggest breweries in the country, there are a few that still rely on glass packaging, the most notable of them all is Allagash. While I’d like to see Allagash White in a can, something tells me that this Belgian-inspired brewery is going to stick to glass for a while longer.
I thought the debate of “can versus bottle” was over a few years ago, but apparently the debate still rages. Not only are some brewers slow to adopt canning, most craft beer drinkers still think the can is a subpar vessel for their favorite brewski. According to a Nielson survey conducted in 2016, only 40% of beer drinkers think cans are as good as bottles. It’s a baffling statistic when you consider the obvious superiority of cans. It makes me wonder if the other 60% of the people polled are just stubborn. Do the other 60% of beer drinkers also not believe in climate change? Or evolution? Why would you want a beer that you can’t crush on your forehead when you’re finished with it? It makes no sense.
So, thank you Deschutes. Your cans are welcome in my fridge. And on my forehead.