Washington beer? Yes, we can!

Local craft brewery ready to start canning beer

On April 17th, everything changes. The world as we know it will be torn asunder. Dogs will lie down with cats, rain will rise from the earth to the sky, and Washington-brewed craft beer will be available in aluminum cans.  Future generations will read about this day in the annals of human history and honor the fearless men who ushered in this brave new era of enlightenment — those two men, Travis Gutterson and Mike Runion, the owners of Gig Harbor’s 7 Seas Brewing.

7 Seas Brewing is about to become the first Washington craft brewer to make their product available in cans. To celebrate, there will be a release party at the 7 Seas taproom in Gig Harbor on April 17th from 12:00 – 6:00. The 7 Seas Brewery and Taproom is located at 3207 57th ST CT NW, Gig Harbor, WA 98335. Read about our visit to the taproom.

Canning has always been part of the plan at 7 Seas Brewing. Back in July, when the first batches of 7 Seas beers were still fermenting, we visited the fledgling brewery and they were already talking about getting it in the can.

“I know people have a lot of opinions about canned beer, but it’s just the best thing to do,” Travis Gutterson told us last July. “Mike and I both love to get out and enjoy nature — to get out in the woods and to go out kayaking and stuff. Cans are just the more responsible thing to do.”

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Tallboys

As if canning their beer isn’t cool enough, 7 Seas Brewing will be packaging their beer in 16 oz. tallboys. They will be available in easy-to-tote four-packs. There will be two 7 Seas beers available in cans: Ballz Deep Double IPA and British Pale Ale. That may change in time, but that’s the plan for now.

Last night we met with Travis at Renton’s Dog and Pony Alehouse, where they were hosting a 7 Seas brewers night celebration. He told us that unlike most six packs, which are held together with extremely eco-unfriendly plastic rings, 7 Seas’ four-packs will use an innovative, recyclable packaging method.

“It’s a recyclable plastic thing that the tops of the cans snap up into,” Travis said. “It’s not one of those plastic, bird trap things that wash up on beaches. Just throw it in the recycling bin with the empty cans.”

“We looked at what every other canned craft beer producer was doing to find inspiration. We didn’t want to put our cans in a box. That’s expensive and we’re proud of our cans. The logo and everything you need to know is right there on the can, so we didn’t see a reason to put them in a box.”

Cask Brewing Systems, Inc. of Calgary, Canada manufactured 7 Seas’ canning system. They provide manual and automated beer canning systems to more than 100 customers worldwide. Cask’s two-head, manual system is perfectly matched for use by craft breweries like 7 Seas who do not need to package 75 cases per hour.

Here at the Washington Beer Blog, we have been anxiously waiting for one of our local brewers to start canning beer. We’re excited about this and we offer our congratulations to 7 Seas for being the first Washington craft brewery to make this move. We hope they are starting a trend.

There has been a lot of discussion here on the blog over the past year about the availability of Washington beer. One thing it seems we all agree on is that if Washington brewers want to sell more beer, then they have to start packaging and distributing it. Cans!  Recyclable, light weight and light-impenetrable… CANS!

Travis began to tell us about the many advantages to canning beer. We stopped him. He had us at “Cans.” We’re believers already. He mentioned to us that people have many opinions when it comes to canned beer. Not true. From what I have heard, there are only two opinions when it comes to canned beer: thumbs up or thumbs down. Similarly, in the 15th century, there were only two opinions about the shape of the earth: round or flat.

The argument for cans

Perhaps the biggest misconception about canned beer is that the aluminum gives the beer a metallic taste. The insides of most cans and lids used for high-end craft beers have a coating, ensuring that there is absolutely no contact between the beer and the aluminum. If you are so sure that you can taste the metal, do a blind tasting. I dare you. I recommend Caldera Pale Ale.  No metallic flavor, just delicious Cascade hops.

Cans are airtight and oxygen-free, protecting their precious cargo from light and oxygen. When light consistently hits a bottle of beer, the beer often turns skunky. Oxygen can also sneak into a bottle under the bottle cap and affect the taste. Of course, if there’s something wrong with your canning system and you are not getting an airtight fill, all bets are off. Still, in theory, cans are airtight.

In a mountain stream, cans chill quicker than bottles. The lighter weight means it’s easier to pack them in and easier pack the empties out. I don’t mind carrying extra weight if it’s beer, I just don’t want to fill my backpack with glass.

Speaking of glass, it breaks.

From a sustainability standpoint, it’s no contest. The average beer can contains 40 percent recycled aluminum, while American beer bottles are typically composed of 20 percent to 30 percent recycled glass. The energy savings that accumulate when you recycle a ton of aluminum are far greater than they are for a ton of glass—96 percent vs. a mere 26.5 percent. Get it? While both bottles and cans are composed of a significant amount of recycled material, recycling glass takes a lot more energy than recycling aluminum.

Then you have to put it in a truck and drive it to the market. The average beer can weighs less than an ounce, while an empty bottle clocks in at close to 6 ounces. Heavier items require more fuel, and create greater emissions, when transported.

If you want to read more about the argument for canned beer, Slate magazine wrote an interesting article and it’s available here.

11 comments

  1. Good call on doing them in 16 oz cans! 12oz cans just feel puny – even though by volume they are the same as a 12oz long-necked glass bottle, they feel smaller because they’re shorter.

  2. Good call on doing them in 16 oz cans! 12oz cans just feel puny – even though by volume they are the same as a 12oz long-necked glass bottle, they feel smaller because they’re shorter.

  3. Sean… Yes, BPA is subject of discussion when anyone starts talking about cans — beer cans, pop cans, baby food, etc. Some really smart people say that the epoxy resin used to line cans contains unhealthy levels of BPA. Other really smart people call this a scare tactic. People have conducted really expensive research to prove that the lining does contain unhealthy levels of BPA. Other people have conducted equally expensive research which proves it does not. I am not a scientist. I would direct you to New Belgium Brewing’s website, where they discuss this issue very intelligently. http://www.newbelgium.com/blog/post/speaking-cans.

  4. congrats to you both on your brewery.i really like the can idea.just make sure you send some up here to porttownsend,im getting tired of them empty 22,s in my sea kayak.and IPA .SEAYA steve

  5. I read a rather complete review on Bisphenyl A in a science journal a couple of months ago. There may be no safe acceptable level. As a scientist (biochemist) I’m am not drinking anything in cans until more is known. I love my beer in a bottle. If hiking I would never take a beer. Nature is beautiful enough, and a beer takes the edge off, makes it harder to hike.

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