June 22, 2017

Back in November, we discussed how growing demand and a limited number of suppliers had reportedly led the Brewers Association, an advocacy group for craft breweries, to warn smaller breweries that cans may be harder to come by in the near future. Now, according to a New York Times report, those dire predictions appear to be coming to fruition.

“Certainly we’ve seen some of our brewery members struggle in recent months,” Bart Watson, the chief economist at the Brewers Association, told The Times. “This has proven to be a real challenge for members that have built their business model around getting these cans.”

One cause is a recently confirmed policy change from Crown, the smallest of the three major can suppliers. According to the Times, they recently increased their minimum order to “the industry-standard truckload, which can range from roughly 155,000 to 200,000, depending on the size of the can.” To put that in perspective, that’s enough space for about 2.4 million ounces of beer, or about 625 barrels.  Being that many small brewers are working on systems in the 15 barrel range, it would take a lot of brewing to fill those supplies.

“That’s a lot of cans to store, it’s a lot of cash to lay out, and the little guys just don’t have that,” said Tim Dorward, a mobile canner who travels between breweries to help them can their beers. “Crown was working with people, and they’re very interested in the craft industry, but it just caught them by surprise.”

Chris M. Thompson, a co-founder of Whitewater Brewing Company, said he recently even had to loan cans to nearby brewers. “Running out of cans is pretty serious,” he said. “You’ve got clients that are depending on that, and you let them down, there’s plenty of people that are willing to fill that gap.”

Well, at least some people out there are willing to help out small breweries… other small breweries.

Related: 50 Nanobreweries in 50 States 
80 Fantastic Canned Beers to Celebrate 80 Years of the Beer Can 
Inside the Making of the Next Great Canned Beer

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