The company, which is still testing the new canning line, hopes to have its Ellie's Brown Ale, White Rascal, India Pale Ale and a fourth beer -- a new brew that Avery will reveal later this year -- in cans and on Colorado liquor store shelves by May 1. (The beers will still primarily be available in bottles.)
"I've wanted to be in cans for a few years," says Avery president Adam Avery. "I grew up drinking up canned beer. Beer was in a can. Bottles were high falutin'."
The problem was that Avery spent a lot of money on a new bottling line in 2006, so the company wanted to wait until it had enough space to invest in cans, he explains. Now that it does, Avery thinks the investment will pay off.
"We've been debating it for a while," says Avery marketing specialist C.V. Howe. "But when it came down to it, it was a lifestyle thing for the people who work at Avery and type of brewer we are."
Avery employees are typical Coloradans in that they like to go snowboarding, skiing, rafting, kayaking, hiking, trail-riding and camping. And cans are a lot easier to take with you when you live "that active lifestyle," Howe says. "So when it came down to it, we couldn't bring our beer where we wanted to drink it."
Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont was the first Colorado brewer to experiment with putting craft beers in cans when it rolled out Dale's Pale Ale in 2002 and proved that big, hoppy, malty flavors don't have to live by the bottle alone. Oskar Blues now sells five canned brews and will unveil its seventh, Gubna, in March.
In the meantime, more than half a dozen other brewers have followed suit, including New Belgium, Breckenridge, Ska, Wynkoop and Upslope (See our "A Crush on Cans," series from May 2009, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5).
Although the Boulder-based Brewers Association doesn't track canned microbrew sales, craft beer program director Julia Hertz says she thinks more than 30,000 barrels of craft beer are now canned per year. While that is less than 1 percent of the 8.6 million barrels of microbrews that are made annually, "it's really growing," she notes. "It seems like we hear monthly about a new craft brewer who is beginning to do it."
Adam Avery likes cans because they're cheaper to ship than bottles and involve less packaging. They also don't allow light to hit the beer and possibly change the taste. Eventually, he says, Avery might try to bottle some of its really big beers.
"How cool would it be to have a tallboy of Maharaja?" he asks, referring to Avery's massive 10.2 percent alcohol-by-volume cult favorite. "There's not too many big beers in a can yet. But that will change as the consumers become more comfortable with it."