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You can throw away your bottle opener: Steel Toe is releasing its beer in cans

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Steel Toe Brewing is hopping on the canning train.

The St. Louis Park-based brewery is joining a growing list of craft breweries nationwide to sell their beers in cans.

Before now, people could only buy Steel Toe in 22-ounce bottles at the liquor store.

https://twitter.com/SteelToeBrewing/status/748586631444066304

Michael Wagner, a brewer at Steel Toe, told BringMeTheNews it has made two of the brewery's flagship beers (Size 7 IPA and Provider Golden Ale) available in six-packs of 12-ounce cans, with the hope of adding other styles in the future. 

The cans became available at about a dozen Twin Cities liquor stores this week, and they'll slowly expand distribution of the cans to all of the brewery's existing customers, Wagner says. The beer will still be available in the 22-ounce bottles as well.

Why cans?

For Steel Toe, the main reason to switch to cans is for the customers.

Five years in, Wagner says they knew changing the packaging "was a necessary step to continue to meet the desires of beer consumers," and they settled on cans because they "fit well with the outdoor lifestyle of the people buying beer today, especially in Minnesota," Wagner says.

That's one of the many reasons Brewers Association reported craft breweries are switching to canning – people can bring cans more places compared to glass bottles, like to the beach, the golf course, or music venues.

But not only are they more portable, cans also help keep the beer fresher – cans block light and are an effective barrier to oxygen, Ryan Petz, the CEO and co-founder of Fulton Brewing in Minneapolis and a member of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild board, told BringMeTheNews.

Cans are also more sustainable, which is another major reason New Glarus Brewing in Wisconsin recently made the switch to cans, The Cap Times reported.

Canning is a growing trend

Craft brewers have long relied on two packaging formats – bottles and draught, the Brewers Association said in 2015.

But over the past few years, cans have become a popular choice for packaging thanks to the benefits cans provide (read all about them here). Customer demand and the diminishing stigma that canned beer is cheap and doesn't have much flavor have also contributed to the growing number of breweries adding cans, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Petz told BringMeTheNews he'd guess probably about a quarter to maybe half of Minnesota's more than 100 breweries offer at least some of their beer in a can.

According to CraftCans.com, 11 Minnesota breweries are canning at least one of their beers. The publication says 550 breweries nationwide have canned their beers.

But that hasn't always been the case. Petz told BringMeTheNews that back in 2009, when he started Fulton, only a couple of breweries were canning. (Fulton started canning about a year ago, he says.)

Now, Petz says, it seems like the newer breweries are starting exclusively in cans – and the ones that have been around longer are canning at least a portion of their production.

The same trend is seen nationwide. In 2011, the Brewers Association said about 2 percent of craft volume was in cans, but by 2014, it has increased to 10 percent of total craft volume.

This means that craft can volume has increased by nearly 2 million barrels (that's roughly a 1 percent share of the total U.S. beer market). Cans have also contributed to a little less than 20 percent of the craft category's total growth from 2011-2014, the Brewers Association noted.

And the trend isn't expected to change any time soon.

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