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Can shortage forces Colorado breweries to get creative with packaging

Posted at 7:48 AM, Aug 27, 2020

DENVER — A "perfect storm" of a pandemic, people drinking more from home, people stocking up on beverages, the seltzer craze, and more have led to a shortage of aluminum cans across the country.

That’s causes Colorado’s craft brewers to get creative to continue to fill the need of consumers.

“Sometimes you have to roll with the punches and I think we’re all learning that this year,” Matt Lowber of Oskar Blues Brewing said.

That included the closure of bars and restaurants, and now includes an aluminum can shortage.

“All these breweries shifting to packaged format has left manufacturers just trying to keep up with demand,” he said.

Oskar Blues prides itself on being the first craft brewery to can its product, specifically Dale’s Pale Ale, and has been doing so for years. They’ve now had to come up with a Plan B in order to keep canning.

“Basically we’re repurposing old brands with the new packaging,” Lowber said.

Oskar Blues has started wrapping old, unused cans with new, different labels.

“You can see some old graphics bleeding through and that’s just part of these cans looking a little wonkier than they usually do,” he said.

Luckily for them, the brewery had old cans left over from a recent branding redesign. They say tens of thousands of the wrapped "2020 edition" cans will be hitting the market, mainly in Colorado.

Ska Brewing in Durango is having to do something similar in response the the can shortage.

“We’re putting labels over printed cans that we have more inventory of. We’re putting labels over cans that we aren’t using at the moment,” Ska president Dave Thibodeau told Denver7.

Thibodeau says the shortage came up very fast, and now the brewery’s September order of cans will likely only be one-third filled.

He showed off a can of Ska’s Hop Ivy with an additional label of Mexican Logger on top.

“You can see at the top the label ends and you can see the old can,” he said.

Thibodeau says his brewery will likely deplete their supply of unused cans, and has even reached out to other breweries in an attempt to buy excess cans to fill/label with Ska beer.

Business is still booming in beer, with both breweries reporting positive sales numbers despite the limitations of bars and restaurants. The majority of those sales has now come in cans, now a little more uniquely and creatively packaged.

“It looks different and looks like something went wrong but the label on the can is the beer inside that can and that has not changed at all,” Thibodeau said.

At least 2020 hasn’t changed the beer itself.