It wasn't all that long ago that the last thing a craft brewery would do is package its beer in cans.
Now it's a logical step to maintain quality, increase sales, reduce costs and reduce environmental impact, and Bloomfield-based Back East Brewing in on board.
Back East opened a 4,500-square-foot brewery last year and started making six year-round and four seasonal beers. This week, the brewery began canning Back East Ale and Misty Mountain IPA, and a third offering is planned in a few weeks. Six-packs hit the shelves this weekend.
Tony Karlowicz, who cofounded Back East in 2006 with his cousin Edward Fabrycki and started making beer in a garage in Southington, said the move to canning made sense on several fronts.
Karlowicz said cans protect the beer from air and light, helping maintain or even improve quality. Cans are also more attractive to stores than bulky growlers, are easier for distributors and customers to handle and better for the environment.
Back East expects to can about 250 cases a week which will be delivered to package and grocery stores by Hartford Distributors. It will also continue offering growlers in stores and at the brewery, and will offer kegs for restaurants.
Karlowicz said the brewery started planning the move to cans last December, working on a design and getting federal and state approval. It also purchased a canning machine for about $35,000. The machine is able to produce about 15 cans a minute, compared to the two growlers a minute that they could produce before.
"We did it to meet demand, really," he said. "It's a good problem to have."
Back East, which currently has six brewing tanks, also expects to add two to three more, possibly by the end of the summer.
"It wasn't entirely unexpected, but it was faster than expected," he said, referring to the brewery's rapidly increasing business. He said the business plans to expand its reach into Fairfield County and western Massachussets by early next year.
As for the purists who cast a wary eye at craft beers in cans, Karlowicz said that concerns over a tinny taste are unfounded and that other craft breweries have done it successfully.
"It doesn't hurt that it's more accepted," he said.
Curt Cameron, president of the Connecticut Craft Brewers Guild and the Hooker Brewing Co., agreed, saying that canned beer has become more accepted among craft beer drinkers.
"A lot of craft brewers are only doing cans now," he said. "I think it's fantastic that they're doing it."
For information on the brewery go to backeastbrewing.com.