Bigger is going to be better in 2019, when a few old-school breweries will add some new-school tricks in order to stay relevant in the ever-evolving, increasingly competitive Colorado craft-beer market.
Great Divide Brewing and Avery Brewing both recently unveiled new beers for the new year, and both are moving further into the aluminum arena. Left Hand Brewing, meanwhile, which was the last of Colorado's biggest breweries to give canning a chance, is also upping its game. The three breweries, which have all passed the 25-year mark, will be selling 16- and 19.2-ounce cans in 2019.
"As the landscape broadens and continues to evolve, we want to produce beer in packaging that will open doors for us," explains Great Divide spokesman Matt Sandy. "Single-serve beers are on the rise, from ski resorts to music venues to liquor stores, and we’re adapting to what the consumer and the retailer want."
Oskar Blues Brewing was the first craft brewery to introduce 19.2-ounce cans when it debuted them during the Great American Beer Festival in 2012. Upslope Brewing and New Belgium followed, offering their own "stovepipes," which are sold as single cans in liquor stores, similar to 22-ounce bomber bottles.
In the meantime, 16-ounce cans became the package of choice for cutting-edge breweries releasing hazy IPAs and other beers at their taprooms. In liquor stores, those beers are typically sold in four-packs, but that is beginning to change as some breweries now sell them as single-serve offerings as well. In fact, there will be several more single-serve can packages offered in the coming months.
There are several reasons that the larger cans are suddenly big.
For starters, supermarkets and convenience stores will begin carrying full-strength beers on January 1, and the single-serve beers are cooler-friendly, especially for smaller stores, since they take up less room than six-packs. That could be why Great Divide and Avery are starting with their best-selling flagship beers.
But 16- and 19.2-ounce cans also work better at sporting events, concert venues, the park and other places where drinkers don't have the time or desire to repeatedly return to the beer line.
"Having a 16-ounce package option is great for those who may not have quick access for refills. We're looking to get it into stadiums, mountain resorts, concert venues, and more local liquor stores on the single shelf," says Avery Brewing field sales director Ryan Minior. "We can't wait to get these into the market."
In addition to White Rascal, Avery will release Avery Lager, Avery IPA and some of its barrel-aged beers in 19.2-ounce cans in the new year. It will also debut a series of taproom-only beers in 16-ounce cans. The first of those releases will be Preesh Lighting, a grapefruit IPA, on Saturday, December 29.
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Great Divide, meanwhile, is overhauling a wide range of its packaging, and one key aspect will be more and larger cans. Heyday Modern IPA and Denver Pale Ale will both be available in 19.2-ounce cans (along with other beers later in 2019), while Hazy IPA will be sold in four-packs of 16-ounce cans.
Great Divide hasn't always been known for reacting quickly to market shifts, but that has changed recently. Last year it debuted the Local Knowledge series of bottled one-off brews that were only available in the taproom; later it began canning Hazy IPA just for Colorado (it will hit other states soon, though). Local Knowledge has since gone away, but Sandy says the brewery may release other small-batch beers in large cans.
And finally, Left Hand Brewing in Longmont plans to introduce two of its beers, Travelin' Light Kolsch and Colorful Colorado Pale Ale, in 19.2-ounce cans. It will also up its 16-ounce nitro can offerings.
Some out-of-state breweries already offer 19.2-ounce cans in Colorado. Denver's Copper Kettle Brewing recently began selling most of its high-priced beers in that package as well. And New Belgium recently signed a deal to sell a beer in 19.2-ounce cans at Red Rocks and other Denver venues.