Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Georgia's first craft beer in a can

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Red Hare to release Georgias first craft beer in a can
  • Red Hare to release Georgia's first craft beer in a can

About a week and a half ago, the Marietta-based craft-beer company Red Hare Brewing announced that it will be the first Georgia brewery to distribute its product in a can. The year-and-a-half old operation's product has only been available on draft in bars and retail shops (via growler on the latter) before the announcement. Red Hare plans to start with its best selling Bohemian-style pilsner (and CL-recommended summer brew) Long Day Lager first, with hopes of expanding from there. We caught up with head brewer Bobby Thomas about why Red Hare dove head first into canning, what beers they'll can next, and why Georgia's three-tier system is inhospitable to craft brewers.

Why did you decide to start canning now?

We've always been a little bit different, so we figured why change anything when it came to packaging? Moreover, Roger [Davis, Red Hare co-founder/managing partner] and I love to play golf and go to the lake with our families, so a can is a perfect fit. We believe the can fits better to the Georgia market, especially in the summer. We really wanted people to be able to take our beer to the lake, the pool, parks, and golf courses. On top of that, we saw an article that was showing the recycle rates of cans versus bottles and it was dramatically in the cans' favor. Oh, and of course, a can is better for beer quality.

Beer aficionados actually love to debate whether beer tastes better on draft, in bottles, or in cans. Given the many opinions, and the fact that most consumers still don't realize great beer is available in cans, how are you ensuring these will taste great?


Well, draft beer is really just beer out of a larger can, yeah? Kinda. Personally, I prefer draft beer, but have seen more issues with beer quality through that route, although this is usually due to the lines that the beer travels through. But you can't really take a keg everywhere, even though I've been known to take kegs to the lake. There are a few things that you have to consider when packing beer in a bottle or can, and we're really trying to take our time and get it right. Carbonation levels are usually set slightly higher on packaged beer compared to draft beer. Of course, you also have to watch the cleanliness of everything on the packing line, whereas the kegging line is a bit easier to manage. So again, we're taking our time and testing our first runs on cans to really try and do it right the first time on these cans.

You're starting with Long Day Lager, I assume because it's a style that lends to warm-weather drinking outside. What's next?

Exactly. Long Day Lager is our best seller so far, and we are launching the cans in the summer, so that's why. We would have loved to come to market with the Gangway IPA as well, but the minimum order for cans kinda put a limit on how many brands we could initially bring to market. We hope to have Gangway in cans by the end of this year, and follow that with the Watership Brown soon after.

Why do you think no other Georgia brewer has started canning yet?

I'm pretty sure because it's kind of a pain from a few different aspects. It's actually more expensive to get into the canning business due to the cost of the canning line compared to a simple bottling line. On top of that, you can bring in a pallet of bottles and labels with a good bit less cost than the minimum order of cans from Ball, which is 92,000 of the same label. All that being said, I'm sure we'll see other Georgia breweries in cans at some point. Cans seem to be taking over the craft-beer market, and when I spoke to another larger Georgia brewery, they said cans were inevitable.

When can we expect Red Hare cans on shelves?

That's been the big question for a few months now. As of [July 11], we're actually doing some test runs on cans and hoping to have beer to market within a few more weeks. So we're hoping to have them out by the end of July.

Once the cans are out, what's next for Red Hare?

This business moves so fast, once we get the cans out I'll probably take one big sigh of relief and immediately begin our next project. We're looking at starting a seasonal lineup to overlap our ongoing Rabbit's Reserve Series. I'm constantly trying to develop new recipes and decide what beers we want to bring to market. Coinciding with new market beers, I'm also trying to come up with some exciting one-offs for our tap room. When we've been out west, it seemed like everyone had at least 20 beers on tap at their breweries. Things out here are set up a bit differently, of course, with our wonderful three-tier system, but I'd like to be able to constantly have some different things for people to try when they come out to our place.

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