In a month, Lila and I will travel to Bergamo, Italy, to inspect our new COMAC bottling line before it ships here. The new line will help us double our current capacity for bottling, and will give us a much better bottled beer, with a longer shelf life.
I guess that kind of gives away our decision between switching to cans, or staying in bottles!
It was a very hard decision. Canned craft beer is one of the hottest trends right now, and we know our customers would love to have the option of getting their Yazoo in cans. However, we chose to upgrade to better, faster bottling line, rather than a new canning line, for the following reasons:
1. First, you guys spoke! Only 32% of the people who voted in our poll were in favor of us switching to cans completely. At our current level, we can't afford to invest in both a new canning line and a new bottling line - it had to be one or the other. But there seemed to be a lot of interest in having some of our beers available in cans, as long as they were always available in bottles as well. So, perhaps after we get our new bottling line up and running, we'll start looking at canning some of our beers as well.
2. BPA. I didn't even know what this was until I started doing more research, and while I am not one to pay attention to every health scare issue, this is one I began to think about. Apparently BPA, which is a chemical in the lining that is sprayed into each can to line the can, can act like a synthetic hormone in humans. Some doctors and scientists believe BPA can leach from the linings of cans, and build up in the bloodstream of young children. There it might act like a synthetic form of estrogen, causing young girls to hit puberty much earlier than normal. I don't know - the evidence is inconclusive. But I do know that there is building political pressure to find an alternative to BPA in can linings - in fact, just this week, Canada declared BPA to be a toxic substance to humans, which will lead to bans in soda and beer cans. I'd rather wait and see how it all shakes out before investing in a new canning line. Here is a link to the story:
3. Canning technology for microbrewers - There are really only one or two companies that make canning lines suited for small breweries. While the filling head designs of the leading company seem to be very good, the seaming technology seems to be problematic. In talks with other brewers and in research online, I have heard many stories of problems with the can seamers on small canning lines, with pinhole leaks developing, sometimes weeks after canning (especially if pallets of cans are stacked on top of each other, like at many distributors). After years of finicky issues with our current bottler and labeller, the last thing I want to do is introduce a new headache.
4. Economics - we have great relationships with our bottle suppliers, and over the past few years have gotten great payment terms. Switching to cans would mean paying, upfront before we even get the first beer into a can, about $45,000 total for the first truckload of cans plus all the deposit fees for pallets, liners, etc. That's a huge hit in cash flow for any business, but especially small breweries like us.
We know bottles. We like bottles. I'd love to get some of our beer into cans at some point (hopefully sooner than later). But for right now we are staying with the good old Heritage bottle for our new line.