Sales of Boulevard Brewing’s canned beer have grown considerably since the aluminum packages were first introduced in 2014, and now the Kansas City-based company is making a multi-million dollar bet that more sales are on the way.
Boulevard, which is owned by Duvel USA and ranked as the 18th largest regional craft brewery in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association (BA), today announced that it would invest $10 million in a 24,000 sq. ft., single-story building that will house a dedicated canning line.
The company currently produces its canned offerings under contract at Cold Spring Brewing Co. in Minnesota and at California’s Firestone Walker, which is also owned by Duvel USA.
But in early 2018, when a $5 million Krones canning line capable of filling 350 12 oz. cans per minute is operational, production and packaging of those beers will return to Kansas City, Duvel USA president Jeff Krum told Brewbound.
“It’s a super high-quality line,” Krum said. “It’s definitely not a starter line. This will take us as far into the future as I can see.”
As Brewbound reported in December, Boulevard, which recorded sales of 195,400 barrels last year, according to BA records, was in the initial stages of planning a dedicated canning facility on an acre of vacant land adjacent to its Kansas City campus.
“Demand for our canned beers has continued to grow since we first offered them in 2014,” Boulevard brewmaster Steven Pauwels said in a press release. “Ten years ago it was uncommon to find craft beer in cans, but today it’s a popular package. We’re happy to oblige because cans completely block light, they’re lighter than bottles so easier to transport, and they can go almost anywhere.”
“As you can imagine, we’re very pleased and encouraged by the numbers that they’re putting up,” Krum added of can sales.
Krum told Brewbound that the machine will be capable of filling 12 oz., 16 oz., and 24 oz. cans as well as 4-pack, 6-pack, 12-pack, 15-pack, 18-pack and 24 “loose pack” configurations..
“We’re trying to imagine what we might conceivably need in the future,” Krum said, noting that the brewery is still considering which pack sizes it will offer. “The 24 oz is just an option. For example, if we were able sell that package to the stadium [Kauffman Stadium], it might be an option.”
Earlier this year, Boulevard announced it had reached a sponsorship deal to become the “official craft beer” of the Kansas City Royals. The beer company’s Unfiltered Wheat Beer is available in 16 oz. single-serve cans inside the stadium.
Boulevard currently cans five of its beers — Unfiltered Wheat, Heavy Lifting IPA, Ginger Lemon Radler, Tropical Pale Ale and American Kolsch — in the 12 oz. format. The company also offers Ginger Lemon Radler in 15-pack configurations with a suggested retail price of $19.99.
With several large craft players offering low-cost 15-packs — New Belgium and Founders Brewing among them — Krum said he doesn’t foresee Boulevard trying to compete for those sales opportunities by lowering its price point.
“If the industry is moving toward 15-packs as a super value, selling it at under $1 a can, that’s no place we want to play,” he said.
Also potentially on the table is the prospect of selling single-serve cans — something companies like New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Green Flash, Dogfish Head and Founders are all currently experimenting with (in both 19.2 oz. and 24 oz. formats).
Boulevard, however, won’t look to add new sizes or styles to its can lineup until 2018.
“We’ve got a couple of things that we’re working on,” Krum said. “Nothing I can commit to or announce at this time. But with this new capability, we’re exploring different ways and different kinds of beers that we can come out with that are appreciably well suited.”
Once installed, the canning line will take up the majority of the space within the new building. However, the company is leaving room in the building for a future replacement of the company’s existing kegging line.
“That’s not imminent,” Krum said. “That’s farther down the road.”
Boulevard is working with project architect Finkle + Williams, general contract MillerStauch Construction and Krones AG will supply key equipment.