Forget the bottle or the tap, Cigar City Brewing is putting beer back in the can.
Tampa residents will soon see some of their favorite local craft beers in good old aluminum, says Cigar City founder Joey Redner. As soon as March 2012, Jai Alai IPA, Maduro Brown Ale, Tocobaga Red Ale, Hotter Than Helles Lager and Florida Cracker White Ale will make it into area shops in a traditional six-pack of cans for an average price of $9.99. According to Redner, this has been in the plans since the inception of Cigar City. The obstacle has been expense.
"You can order a truckload of bottles and do many different brands with them. But because cans come preprinted, you can only use them for one beer. It costs $37,000 just for a first order of cans. The per-unit cost is less, but you have to buy so many of them."
Despite the steep cost, Redner's enthusiasm for the new receptacles is clear.
"When you put beer in bottles, you're in a race to have it consumed before it becomes not what you intended."
Cans eliminate light as a factor. Even in dark brown glass, direct sunlight can permeate bottles and creates an organic compound that makes beer "skunky." And while all beer contains some dissolved oxygen, which can have a negative effect on taste, Redner explains that cans generally have lower dissolved oxygen levels.
From a consumer standpoint, cans make environmental sense as they are more easily recycled and weigh less, which cuts down on transportation costs. These savings will be passed along to the customer. Redner anticipates a six-pack of cans will cost 25 cents to a dollar less than bottles.
Still, Redner knows that cans carry a stigma in some beer-drinking circles. Cigar City Brewing will launch an educational "can-paign" in advance of the release.
"Cans have a reputation for being déclassé because of the beers that were historically canned," Redner explains. "Typically this was not your top-shelf products."
Those times are changing. Cigar City is buying a canning line from fellow craft beer canner New Belgium. The Colorado brewer will upgrade its own line, passing along its machinery to Cigar City, which will add to its nearly 7,000-square-foot Tampa warehouse space when the Fight Factory gym vacates its space at the end of the year.
As with Cigar City's bottles and tap art, labels for the canned beers have been designed by media and marketing director Geiger Powell. The initial lineup of canned beers includes bestsellers that are "sessionable," meaning those of which you might drink more than one, making them easy choices for the beach, the camping trip or tailgate (places glass bottles are prohibited).
But this is just a first step.
"Our ultimate goal," says Redner, "is to phase out the 12-ounce bottles entirely and go to cans."
Laura Reiley can be reached at (727) 892-2293.