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Canning Michigan Craft Beer

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The “official” birthday of the beer can is January 24, 1935—the day cans of Krueger’s Finest Beer and Krueger’s Cream Ale first went on sale in Richmond, VA. According to Brewery Collectibles Club of America, “the beer can really made its debut some 14 months earlier—just before the repeal of Prohibition” when the American Can company engineered a workable beer can.

Some 85 years prior to the introduction of the beer can in America, Bernhard Stroh emigrated from Kirn, German toIMG_9668 establish a brewery in Detroit in 1850 called Lion’s Head Brewery, according to the company’s website. After his passing in 1882, his sons Julius and Bernhard Jr. expanded the company, first calling it the B. Stroh Brewing Company and later the Stroh Brewery Company.

During Prohibition, they operated under the name The Stroh Products Company (producing near beer with its alcohol extracted, birch beer, malt products, soft drinks and ice cream). After the Repeal of Prohibition in 1933, beer was once again the focus…and within a short period of time, canned beer was introduced.

In 1964, Stroh’s began its expansion with a buyout of the Goebel Brewing Company and in the years that followed, they acquired the rights to several other brands including Schaefer, Schlitz, Old Milwaukee and G. Heileman Brewing Company’s “Old Style”—a canned beer that was made in nearby Frankenmuth.

By the early 1980s, the Detroit-based Stroh’s was the third largest brewing enterprise in America but that title was short lived. In the mid-1980s, production ceased and the brand products were sold to Pabst Brewing Company.

Frankenmuth has been home to many breweries over its history, since being settled in 1845. In addition to G. Heileman, there was Cass River Brewery (which became Geyer Bros. Brewing Company), Carling Brewing Company, Carling-National, Frankenmuth Brewing Company and Frankenmuth Brewery—many of which produced beer in cans.

The first beverage cans were flat topped cans made of tin, opened with a church key that left triangular punctures in the lid through which the beer was poured. Next, low profile or j-spout cone top cans with crimped caps (similar to the caps used on bottled beer today) were introduced.

By the early 1940s, cans still representing only 10 percent of the beer market share—despite the fact that they were easily discarded, there was no deposit as there was with bottles, they were lighter to transport and easier to stack and store. That percentage decreased significantly at the onset of World War II as tin was needed for more important purposes.

It wasn’t until 1958 when Coors Brewing Co. of Golden Colorado unveiled its recyclable aluminum cans, changing the entire beverage industry. It was about this time that the way cans were opened also changed. By the early 1960s, the “pull tab” method became the most common way to open a can, followed by the “push tab” used primarily by Coors in the mid-1970s.

According to Wikipedia: “the push-tab was a raised circular scored area used in place of the pull-tab. It needed no ring to pull up. Instead, the raised aluminum blister was pushed down into the can, with a small un-scored piece that kept the tab connected after being pushed inside. Push-tabs never gained wide popularity because while they had solved the litter problem of the pull-tab, they created a safety hazard where the person’s finger upon pushing the tab into the can was immediately exposed to the sharp edges of the opening. An unusual feature of the push-tab Coors Beer cans was that they had a second, smaller, push-tab at the top as an airflow vent — a convenience that was lost with the switch from can opener to pull-tab.”

Today’s “stay tab” was actually developed in the 1970s, although many consider it a more modern contribution to the craft beverage industry. A “wide mouth” version was introduced in the 1990s.

In the most recent wave of craft brewing in Michigan, early adopters of the can were Rochester Mills Beer Company (est. 1998),  Keweenaw Brewing (est. 2004) and Millking It Productions (MIP) (2010-2015). It was 10 years into its operation before RMBC began canning, offering 12-ounce cans at its Rochester Mills pub in 2008 before expanding to 16-ounce pint size cans at its Production Brewery in 2012. Keweenaw Brewing was the first Michigan microbrewery to produce its beer exclusively in cans (since the very beginning), starting with Pick Axe Blonde. Today, they have five styles in the market year round, with two seasonals that were introduced in 2015.

Over the past few years, a growing number of Michigan breweries have begun to distribute their products in cans instead of or in addition to bottles. Nearly 30 different Michigan breweries now offer canned beer, with more than 150 different products in the marketplace (see lists below). And while many have invested in their own in-house canning lines, many are enlisting the help of local entrepreneurs interested in seeing the industry not only succeed but continue to grow and expand their brands.

Since the summer of 2013, Michigan Mobile Canning has been traveling around the state assisting craft breweries with its mobile, custom-configured canning line—complete with all the necessary supplies, labor and expertise. In the past 2.5 years, MMC has assisted 16 Michigan breweries take more than 2.3 million cans to market with its unique packaging process.

“Breweries think we are expensive and we are not,” says MMC owner Scott Richards. “The brewery has zero start up expense other than the money it takes to make the beer. We can do anything from 5-50 barrels.” By the second quarter of 2016, Richards says they’ll be adding nitrogen as an offering as well as a third mobile line to handle the increased demand from Michigan breweries utilizing their services.

There is no question that cans are more versatile when it comes to where and how easily you can transport them—the golf course, the boat, the beach, the trails. According to a posting on Merchant’s Fine Wine website: “Canned beer is better for the environment, and the cans protect the beer better from the damaging effects of light and oxygen. And unlike cans of yesteryear, modern aluminum cans are lined with a water-based coating, so beer never touches metal, thus there are no unpleasant or ‘metallic’ flavors. The secret, though, is to still pour the beer into a glass if you are able!”

Cheers!

The Michigan breweries distributing packaged beer in cans, ranging from limited release to widespread, multi-state reach are:

Which is YOUR favorite Michigan canned craft beer? #MiBeer #CannedCraft

 

*If we have inadvertently missed a Michigan craft brewery in can distribution, please email details to media@michiganbrewersguild.org.

Give the Gift of Michigan Beer & Related Swag

gifts

Chances are you have a craft beer lover (or two) on your holiday shopping list. This year, give the gift of Michigan beer, while also supporting locally-owned businesses and the state’s overall agricultural industry.

Stop in your local microbrewery or brewpub and pick up a growler, four- or six-pack of a seasonal brew and build your own gift basket with a selection of brewery swag like stickers, buttons, t-shirts, home décor, bottle openers, gift cards and other unique stocking stuffers. A membership in the pub’s “mug club” would also be a nice offering.

Many retail outlets around the state also feature Michigan-made brews, including 12-bottle variety packs or build-your-own-six-pack options which provide a more personal touch to your gift giving.

Shop online at MiBeer for a variety of logoed items from the Michigan Brewers Guild. You’ll find everything from apparel, backpacks, tote bags, glassware, sunglasses, flags, license plates, beach balls, bottle openers, patches, pins, stickers, tin tackers, umbrellas and more.

Michigan Brewers Guild Enthusiast Memberships also make great gifts, providing a year of benefits like pre-sale dates for the four official festivals and one hour early admission to each, dollar-off pint options at participating breweries, special brewery tours and an official Enthusiast t-shirt — all for just $55.

About the Michigan Brewers Guild

The Michigan Brewers Guild was formed in 1997 and held its first festival in July 1998. Today, the Guild hosts four festivals dedicated exclusively to Michigan craft beer produced by its nearly 180 member breweries.

Michigan’s thriving brewing industry conservatively contributes more than $144 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $277 million. In terms of overall number breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #5 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State.”

The Michigan Brewers Guild is the network of innovative and passionate brewers that serves as the recognized advocate for the Michigan craft beer industry. The mission of the Michigan Brewers Guild is to promote and protect the Michigan craft beer industry with an overarching goal to help craft beer acquire 20% of the market by 2025.

 www.MiBeer.com

www.facebook.com/MichiganBrewersGuild

www.twitter.com/MiBrewersGuild

Our mailing address: Michigan Brewers Guild • 225 W Washtenaw, Suite C • Lansing, MI 48933

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