How much would you pay for a decent bottle of pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon? What about a bomber bottle of a barrel-aged beer — one of those big-alcohol bruisers that have spent months soaking in a whiskey or wine barrel? You could easily spend $12, $15, even $20 bucks on something like that. But what if that same gorgeous liquid came in a can? Would it give you pause, or would you plow forward with your purchase?
Copper Kettle Brewing is about to find out. Last week, the six-year-old brewery got rid of its glass bottles and began packaging all of its high-end beers in elegant — but still aluminum — 19.2-ounce cans. The beers include Snowed In, a bourbon-barrel-aged oatmeal stout; Sobremesa, a tequila-barrel-aged pale ale; Well-Bred, a bourbon-barrel-aged barleywine; and Mexican Chocolate Stout, the brewery's hearty flagship.
"This is a high-end product, and it feels like a high-end product," says Copper Kettle co-founder Jeremy Gobien, explaining that the label has a tactile, matte feel rather than a shiny feel or appearance. "When you pick one up, you know you are holding something different. And that is by design. This is a project we have been working on for more than a year, because we wanted to do it in an elegant and a well-designed way."
Glass is still the packaging material that many people expect when it comes to expensive beers — and aside from a few offerings from Oskar Blues and Upslope Brewing, there are very few canned barrel-aged, high-alcohol or high-end beers on the market. Gobien says he's surprised by that, but that he expects it to change.
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"I think you will start to see more of it," he says, especially in the large-format 19.2-ounce cans. "It's hard to split a twelve-ounce can, but with the nineteen-ounce cans, I just love the sharing format. The intent is not for you to drink this yourself. It's to take the beer with you and share it with somebody at a social event."
In addition, Gobien says aluminum protects the beer from light and air better than glass. It's also easier to package and ship. "There are probably half a dozen reasons we switched from glass to aluminum. The intent is to get away from glass altogether. The industry is moving in that direction."
"Glass bottles look like 1980s now. It's very old-school. I think the perception is growing that glass is dead and that it is unlikely that glass sales are going to rise in the foreseeable future. So you're either riding the wave or you're not," Gobien says. "I also just like it better. I think everything about cans is brighter and more colorful and attractive to consumers."