Some ten years after we launched the “Canned Beer Apocalypse” at Oskar Blues and overthrew the bottles-only status quo in America, UK brewers are now embracing Cask Brewing Systems gear and doing their own form of beery upheaval.
In May 2013, London’s Camden Town Brewery released a full-flavored beer in the most reviled package a British small-batch brewer could use: the aluminum can. It was the craft beer equivalent of the Sex Pistols’ release of “Anarchy in the UK” in 1976.
Camden Town’s overthrow of tradition was made possible by an ACS canning line from Cask. Two more rule-breaking UK craft brewers – Fourpure and Beavertown – soon fired up their Cask machines and England’s canned craft beer revolution was fully underway.
Today 15 punkish UK craft brewers (Rooster’s, Felinfoel, Concrete Cow, Retro Control and others) fill their cans on their own Cask machines. Over a hundred more count on Cask gear through the UK’s first mobile canning service, We Can.
“Early in 2014,” Fourpure co-founder Daniel Lowe recalls, “we were the very first UK-based craft brewery to start canning its core range. This was crucial for us as a differentiator in a market of brown glass. In our first month our cans doubled our historic bottle sales. The second month they quadrupled them.”
Beavertown’s exceptional beers — canned on a Cask ACS — fueled massive sales growth and hefty accolades. The London brewery was deemed Supreme Champion Brewer and UK Brewer of the Year in the 2015 International Beer Challenge, and head brewer Jenn Merrick won a top UK brewer award last year as well. The honors were shots heard ’round the UK beer world, akin to when a few cans of Dale’s Pale Ale I sent to the New York Times’ debut beer-tasting panel (in 2005) landed us a “Top US Pale Ale” nod in the mighty paper.
“The IBC beers were judged in a blind tasting,” Merrick says, “and our cans absolutely played a role in us winning the awards. It was revolutionary and it really showed a changing of the guard.”
Yorkshire’s Rooster’s Brewing added cans and Cask equipment to its lineup about 18 months ago. “We’re selling everything we put into cans,” says co-founder Ian Fozzard, “and the cans have helped us grow into kegged beers and increase our cask-conditioned beer sales as well.”
Andy Hughes of mobile service We Can launched his company with a Cask ACS machine. His sales have surpassed his expectations. “Cans,” he says, “had always been associated with budget beer here, so we worried that craft consumers would turn it down. But that’s not been the case and we’re taking the UK by storm.”
“The craft beer market,” Hughes says, “is younger and drinks for flavor, not to get drunk. These modern consumers want a modern beer package, and they see the can as a premium quality package that gives their beer the best protection for that flavor.”
We Can has become a micro-canning powerhouse that now uses three Cask machines to package over 200 different beers for about 120 UK brewers. To keep up with demand, Hughes has two more Cask machines on order and is expanding his service into Ireland and Holland.
“We couldn’t have done this without Cask Brewing Systems,” Hughes says. “Their technology, expertise and service have been fantastic. And the fact that we’ve gotten so many repeat orders from our customers is testimony to the quality of the Cask canning lines.”
Are you a brewery looking to carry out your own brand of canarchy? Visit www.cask.com for more info or send an email to me and I’ll connect you with the uncanny staff at Cask.