Boston Beer Company to Introduce Cans This Summer

After years of refusing to put his beer in cans, Jim Koch — the founder of Boston Beer Company (BBC) — believes he’s finally found a package worthy of his brewery’s flagship offering, Boston Lager.

Slated for an early summer release, the “Sam Can,” as Boston Beer’s brewers have termed it, is the result of a two-year, $1 million dollar project to create an hourglass-shaped package that Koch believes is superior to the other cans on the market.

“In the past, I had my doubts about putting Sam Adams in a can because I wasn’t convinced that Boston Lager would taste as good as it does from a bottle,” Koch said in a company press release. “But cans have changed and I believe we’ve designed a can that provides a slight but noticeably better drinking experience than the standard beer can.”

Boston Beer enlisted the help of IDEO – the global design firm credited with creating Apple Inc.’s first mouse – and sensory expert Roy Desrochers, a beer flavor expert for the Master Brewer’s Association of the Americas (MBAA). Together, the team worked with can manufacturer Ball Corporation to create a new can design that boasts a wider lid and mouth, which they believe will increase air flow and position the drinker’s nose closer to the hop aromas of the beer.

“The flared lip and wider top of the new Sam Can work in concert to deliver the beer in a way that makes the flavor closer to drinking out of a glass,” said Desrochers. “Although subtle, this can delivers a more pronounced, more balanced flavor experience — something that was very important to the brewers.”

Boston Beer spokeswoman Jessica Paar said the new can design is patent-pending and that Koch hasn’t decided if he’ll license its use to other craft brewers. Some of the $1 million investment included necessary adjustments to canning equipment at Ball Corporation in order to fill the new package, Paar said. It’s possible similar adjustments could be made to standard canning lines, opening the door for use of the can at other breweries. asked Luke Livingston, the founder of Baxter Brewing, a can-only brewery, how the announcement might impact his business. Livingston sees it as a positive.

“The more well-known breweries who start canning, the more legitimacy it adds to the package,” he said. “Breweries like Boston Beer have a lot of power at retail, so you’ll see package stores start dedicating more space to can packages. [These are] coat tails I’m happy to ride because once we’re there too, I feel confident in our liquid and can designs to continue to stand out.”

Sales of canned craft beer have been steadily growing over the last five years. Symphony IRI group, a Chicago-based market research company, pegged sales of canned craft beer in U.S. supermarkets at $13 million through July 8, 2012. That’s up from just $1.2 million in 2008. The website also tallies the number of canning breweries in the U.S. at 249.

And while this marks the first time in the BBC’s 29-year history that U.S. consumers will be able to purchase cans of Samuel Adams, it’s not the first time the company’s logo has appeared on a can. In May of 1996, BBC announced a brewing agreement with Whitbread Brewing, the largest brewery in the United Kingdom. Under the agreement, Boston Beer granted Whitbread an exclusive license to use the trademark “Boston Beer,” and produce and can a beer with the same name.

The new Samuel Adams Boston Lager cans will begin rolling out in 12-packs during the second quarter of 2013. Their suggested retail price will be $14.99 – $17.99. Click here for the official company press release.

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