Big brands, meanwhile, continue to tinker with their cans. Bud
Light will pilot test one this summer with a vent under the tab to
reduce "glug." Likewise, Coors Light recently announced a can with
a double-vented wide mouth. This follows Miller Lite's "punch top"
cans, introduced last year with a second hole to be opened with
objects such as a house key or golf tee.
It's an expensive experiment. Boston Beer Co., owner of Sam
Adams, spent $1 million and two years perfecting its Sam can; Grand
Rapids, Mich.-based Founders Brewing Co. spent millions refining
its canning line.
Of the 2,400 U.S. brewing companies, 97% are small independents.
It was inevitable that these hometown brewers would experiment
beyond the large-brewery approach, said Julia Herz, craft-beer
program director at the Brewers Association. In 2012, 3% of craft
brewers' beer was canned, according to the Brewers Association,
which expects that figure to increase exponentially this year.
Beer's natural enemies are oxygen and light, which degrade
freshness and shelf life of the brew; glass bottles automatically
trap oxygen and allow light to penetrate. Cans, on the other hand,
seal air out and block light.
"You can really do a disservice to beer, quickly, at the
packaging [stage]," said Mike Stevens, CEO of Founders, which will
launch its All Day IPA in cans later this year. He forecasts a 25%
increase in overall volume of All Day IPA after the national can
launch. Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale and Torpedo brews were huge hits
last year, so it introduced Summerfest cans in late May. Other
brewers in cans this summer include Shipyard, Two Brothers and
"Craft brewers are grassroots, and their sense of storytelling
is: one can, one bottle, one keg at a time," Ms. Herz said.
"There's more room on the actual can to put their story. ... The
more they can talk about their personality, the better."
The can needs to do the talking for craft brewers because they
often don't have the budget for TV and radio ads. Big brewers,
however, are spending to promote their cans. Miller Lite ran a TV
campaign from Commonground that asked "How do you punch it?" and
investigated how household items can puncture its Punch Top can.
Coors Light's "most refreshing can" TV campaign featured celebrity
Ice Cube. And Bud Light has a local campaign with digital, radio,
and print media in Louisville, Ky., where it's testing its vented