New Packages for Stone, Firestone Walker, SweetWater

Craft’s love affair with consumer choice, style variations and packaging options might give some distributors a headache, but the strategy has helped to shape a beer category that continues to grow at a double-digit clip.

The introduction of new SKUs doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon: three of the country’s largest craft beer suppliers are preparing to launch a set of new packages.

Stone Brewing Company, long known for its vast style assortment, will expand its package offerings to include a new mixed 12-pack featuring four of the company’s core beers. Already available at select retailers in California, Stone, currently ranked as the 10th largest craft brewery by the Brewers Association, plans to expand distribution of the pack across the country in early 2014.

“We hope this new Stone Mixed 12-Pack allows our fans to enjoy their Stone favorites or revisit a beer they haven’t had in a while,” Greg Koch, Stone Brewing CEO, said in a press statement.

The mixed pack features four of the company’s year-round offerings: Stone IPA, Ruination, OAKED Arrogant Bastard and Levitation Ale. The brewery also said it plans to occasionally change the varieties of beer offered in the pack.

Just a few hours north of Stone, in Paso Robles, Calif., Firestone Walker Brewing Company is also mixing things up in a different way.

In an effort to help improve the brand’s shelf presence and bring “fresh energy” to its core lineup — DBA, Pale 31 and Union Jack — Firestone, the 20th biggest U.S. craft brewery, has given its 6-packs a facelift. The new packages include a more unified color palette and enhanced visual emphasis on the brewery’s ‘Lion vs. Bear’ iconography.

“The new packaging isn’t a complete departure, but it’s a leap forward,” Jamie Smith, the brewery’s vice president of marketing, said in a release. “The overall look is familiar, but DBA, Pale 31 and Union Jack will now jump out more vividly as a family of beers.”

The newly designed packages were created in house by the brewery’s marketing team and will begin hitting retailer shelves on Oct. 15.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, SweetWater Brewing announced it will add cans to its product mix next year. The country’s 24th largest craft brewery has purchased a new, high-speed Krones canning machine that is scheduled to arrive in the early part of 2014.

“Once we get everything up and running, we’ll be slingin’ 420 and IPA in cans for the first time ever, just in time for you fools to get weird on spring break,” the company said in a recent blog post.

The company’s two flagship offerings are the only SKU additions for now, and the brewery will soon decide if the cans will be packaged in 6-packs or 12-packs.