On beers & cans
Jonathan Rondeau-Leclaire, 9 juillet 2012 (12:56 ), Commentaire(s)
By Biére de Lys
Have you ever heard something like, « Canned beers are cheap and taste like metal. It woud be preposterous to can craft beer! »
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Last updated: October 10, 2012
To say the least, it seems to be the most common reaction among people who are somewhat reluctant to the idea of replacing bottles with cans. Culturally, the can seems not to be made for “good” beers. Beers have been bottled forever, and a certain tradition is embedded into these containers. However, the advent of cans should not be seen as a threat to this cultural aspect, but rather as a pro-environment alternative which brings about more efficient means and multiple advantages for the brewing industry
As of 2012, Brewers Association reports over 2000 craft breweries in the United States. The American industry is really large and goes in the same direction as the Quebec industry: always growing. Quebec only has 2 craft breweries who can their beer: Archibald (Lac-Beauport) and Corsaire (Lévis). Craft Cans, a devoted proponent of canned craft beer, reports 667 canned beers by 215 different craft breweries in the US. That is something! Not so astonishing, considering canned beer appeared in 1935, when Krueger sold the first prototypes. Moreover, Craft Cans’ sister website, Craft Cans Canada, reports 119 canned beer, by 38 Canadian craft breweries, mostly in British Columbia and Ontario. All in all, Quebec sure is far behind!
So, what about it?
On the one hand, popular beliefs pertaining to canned beers are ill-founded; on the other hand, one must absolutely consider the advantages for society’s different agents that a move towards canned beer could have. Such advantages are multiple and distributed, in that they are present both for the producer and for the consumer. Indeed, right now, especially in Canada, canned beers are by far sexist-advertising-oriented cheap beers, usually of bad taste and quality, aiming for the mass market with cheap prices and “ice-cold” stuff, which sets a chill in the beer lover’s spine when somebody talks about canning his beloved craft beers.
Hence, I suggest we should discuss what the advantages of beer-canning are for the whole of society. If you are too lazy to read the whole article, then I suggest you read it anyway and towards the end I’ll provide a link to a great poster a reader showed me that sums up and supports pretty much everything I’ll be arguing here. Just so you say, « darn I could have simply checked out that awesome poster ». But I hate laziness, so keep reading.
First argument: weight.
One bottle (341 ml) weighs between 180 g and 200 g; one can has a negligible weight (probably under 10 g). The weight difference is then around 1 kg per six-pack. A producer who ships several hundred liters at a time would see its per-unit transportation costs diminish drastically, since at equal volume (of beer) the weight is lessened. To picture it, the total weight of beer contained in a six-pack is about 2 kg; adding the bottles’ 1 kg means that using cans instead of bottles saves around 33% weight overall!. Should a producer deliver 200 24-packs, its transportation weight is reduced by 800 kg! That’s something!
Moreover, the consumer who must walk a certain distance to bring back 24 empty bottles will see its burden highly lightened…
Second argument: volume.
It’s quite simple; bottles are an extremely inefficient way of using space. Picture yourself a common bottle within a 6-pack; its conical shape leaves a lot of empty space within the package. Now, imagine a 6-pack of cans, which contains the exact same volume of beer; the only empty space in a six-pack (imagine them in a box) is that between the cans, which is minimal. Ever realized that a 6-pack of bottles has the same length and width as a 6-pack of cans, only it’s almost twice as high? 1. That means in a given space, we can put nearly twice as much beer when it’s canned than when it’s bottled.
I bet you can now clearly imagine the advantages. What about producers? It means a truck can carry nearly twice as much beer when it is canned 2, hence halving (or so) the transportation cost associated with a given quantity of beer3. Obviously, this advantage also applies for the consumer, who is less overstocked when transporting beer. There is another major advantage when it comes to retailers, who not only must store their beer (as for the producers!), but also must keep it cold. Canned beer allows the retailer to store a lot more beer in a given space, hence saving on electricity costs (or room expansion needs!). Moreover, aluminum is much thinner than glass, which basically makes it so that much less material has to be cooled, hence saving even more on the electricity bill. Have you noticed how much I mentioned “savings”? I hope you begin to see the reason for that .
Third argument: the container-deposit.
This damn refund! I have to say, what a good incentive to bring back your bottles instead of throwing them away, enabling us to re-use them instead of recycling them. Have you ever imagined the implications of such a process? It implies that retailers must have a permanently dedicated space to store empty bottles. It implies that they must pay the delivery guy an extra half-hour to pick them up. It implies that producers need a machine to perfectly clean the bottles and remove the label. And who pays for all this do you think? The consumer of course! It’s a production-related cost after all…
All these costs could be diminished – or altogether gotten rid of – with the advent of cans. A retailer could simply buy an machine to collect and compress cans, the content of which he could easily get rid of once in a while, hence taking much less space in his store. The producer could get rid of its bottle-cleaning machines and simply buy pre-printed cans from the same company who recycles the used cans. Everybody wins; by reducing costs, producers and retailers can reduce prices, about which the consumer rarely complains…
(1) This space is also lost with the bottle, because they’re round!
(2) or use a truck half as big to transport the same quantity of liquid as before, but economies of scales and fixed costs suggest the first option would be more advantageous!
(3) of course total costs will increase because there will be much more beer in the truck