Baltimore Beer Baron: Is 2015 the year of the can?

City Paper

2015 might be the Year of the Can in Baltimore. Once a matter of great debate, it has been emphatically decided that canned craft beer is here to stay. No matter where you stand on craft being distributed in aluminum vessels, the War on Cans is over and the cans won. Last week, I spoke to a few local brewers about what to expect from their creative minds in the year ahead. Several of them not only mentioned canned beer, they promised more of it than ever before. 

The most common reason cited for branching out into cans is that breweries simply “can” now. Some local companies have recently invested in expansion of their brewing facilities and actually have the space to make more product, and thus can sell canned beer without it coming at the expense of their bottled products. 

Jailbreak Brewing will open the year with its Infinite Amber in cans in January, and plans to have at least five different products in cans at all times by the end of 2015. Look for its canned orange Hefeweizen, Feed the Monkey, in April. Jailbreak will install two new 40-barrel tanks in March that will allow it the extra capacity to commit to increased canned-beer production.

Another company making full use of its expanded operations is Heavy Seas Beer. It’ll initiate the biggest can rollout in the brewery’s history in April with the launch of Smooth Sail Summer Ale. Heavy Seas’ Fred* Crudder noted that the company “never had the brewing capacity before. The expansion has given us the ability to do these types of things.” Asked if there was any hesitation in the company’s plans to release more beers than ever in cans, including the potent Loose Cannon, Crudder replied, “We’re far more excited than afraid. That’s why we expanded the production of the brewery and it’s time to step on the gas pedal.”

And if you like Heavy Seas Loose Cannon but wish for something stronger, this is going to be your year. Double Cannon Double IPA arrives in March. The new year will also ring in the release of its first new year-round beer in 12 years: Cross Bones, a 4.5-percent ABV session IPA. More immediately, Deep Six, a less sweet, drier porter seasonal, will begin trickling out to distributors next week.

The King of Cans, Union Craft Brewing, will begin regular seasonal can releases starting with Old Pro Gose next summer. Currently, it’s focused on its small batch draft-only series and busting into the Northern Virginia marketplace. 

Full Tilt Brewing isn’t getting into cans yet, but is putting them on its wish list. It’ll unveil The Bay IPA, a session IPA, in bottles and draft in February. Full Tilt has teamed up with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to fundraise for that charitable organization with the sale of the beer and related events.

Not currently interested in the canning business is Oliver Brewing Company, even though it’s also expanded its brew house. (Update: Oliver Brewing is now planning to enter the can market before summer with Draft Punk IPA and 3 Lions, its strong brown ale.) Oliver Brewing moved brew operations from the basement of the Pratt Street Ale House to new digs near Clifton Park and doubled its capacity in the process. Its most anticipated release of the year, for me, is surely Noche Del Chupacabra, a red ale with mesquite smoked malt from the Copper Fox Distillery in Centreville, Virginia and aged in bourbon barrels. You’ll have to wait until fall for that pet project from brewer Steve Jones. 

Can, bottle, or draft, 2015 is shaping up to be one hell of a year for local beer. 

*An earlier version of this story mistakenly referred to him as Mitch Crudder. It also erroneously called Heavy Seas Beer Heavy Seas Brewing. City Paper regrets the errors. 

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