Craft breweries far and wide have joined the can revolution in recent years, ditching traditional glass bottle packaging for the sleeker, more durable and 100% more aluminumier option. As most craft buffs will tell you, this paradigm shift can be traced back to the early aughts when Colorado’s Oskar Blues Brewery started pushing its Dale’s Pale Ale in cans, challenging the beer aficionados in the world to change their perspective on a packaging that, up until that point, typically represented Big Beer.
Now a decade since the initial canning of Dale’s Pale Ale, Oskar Blues is blazing a new aluminum trail with the introduction of a bar-top machine that seams up a can growler of beer for you on the spot.
The prototype debuted last November at the brewery’s Tasty Weasel taproom in Longmont, CO, using a 32-ounce can called the Crowler, which is produced by Ball Packaging. According to a press release issued by Oskar Blues back in January, the move to on-the-spot canning was fueled by the desire to equip craft beer drinkers with the best-tasting beer possible:
“Craft beer drinkers dig their growlers filled in local taprooms, but standard glass growlers are often brought into pubs and tap rooms without being cleaned correctly, which affects the taste and cleanliness of the refill. They also don’t seal well and allow light in, while the Crowler™ is more portable and takes advantage of what the can has to offer by eliminating light-struck or skunky beer.”
So far, only a handful of breweries, pubs and bottle shops have purchased the Crowler-sealing machines from Oskar Blues; the brewery has relied solely on word of mouth marketing, selling the machines at $3,000 a piece along with Crowler cans. Early adopters have ranged from Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, FL, (watch this video) and West Sixth in Lexington, KY, to Hough’s Taproom & Brewpub in Pittsburgh. The Oskar Blues team even installed a Crowler machine on the bus from this summer’s Sierra Nevada Beer Camp tour (which they reportedly used to can the revered Pliny the Elder from Russian River).
It’s no secret that Central PA loves it some craft beer. The region is home to 40+ breweries and cideries after all, with many a taproom, taphouse, pub and beer bar pouring craft selections from around the globe.
When the Denver-based website westword.com reported on Oskar Blues’ Crowler-sealing machine in late August, Al Kominski, owner of Al’s of Hampden and Pizza Boy Brewing Co. in Enola, posted the story to the pizza pub’s Facebook page with four simple words: “Ordering it right now!” Today, the Facebook page again posted about the Crowler, this time with a screen shot of a Crowler label:
Jamie Futty, co-owner of The Fridge bottle and pizza shop in Lancaster, isn’t so sure The Fridge will be investing in Crowlers quite yet. He does, however, share in the excitement for the Crowler, in particular the ability to enjoy beers that might only reach the market on draft from a can after all. Given the impressive variety of beers on the shelf and on tap at The Fridge, it should come as no surprise that having options is something of importance to Futty – and to his customers as well.
He’s also smitten by the concept of beer to-go in a quantity smaller than the standard 64-ounce glass growler (which, he admits, is mostly so he can more easily take beer with him on backpacking and camping expeditions).
“Unless I’m going to a party where I know I’ll be sharing with other people, or unless I just feel like getting really sauced up – which isn’t that often, if ever – I don’t want 64 ounces of one kind of beer,” says Futty. “But if I’m going to the cabin and can bring a variety of different 32’s, it’s better than having to be committed to finishing a 64 in one sitting.”
“Once you crack the seal on the glass growler, you’re done. You pretty much have to drink it, or else it’s going to go flat.”