D.L. Geary is again offering its Summer Ale in cans, but this year the cannery is coming to the brewery rather than the beer going to the cannery.
Last year, when Geary’s offered canned beer for the first time, it shipped 200 barrels in a tank truck to Wachusetts Brewing Co. in Mansfield, Mass. This year Iron Heart Canning of Monroe, Conn., brought its mobile canning line to Geary’s Portland brewery.
David Geary, founder and head brewer at Geary’s, said he was pleased with the response to the canned beer last year but was a uncomfortable with the amount of beer he had to commit to canning at Wachusetts.
Geary said Iron Heart plans to spend three days canning the Summer Ale at Geary’s, processing between 500 and 600 cases a day.
Tyler Wille, Iron Heart founder, said he started the business last July.
“We’ve done about 60 runs at this point,” he said.
The canning system processes about 40 cans a minute, which is a lot slower than the 150 bottles a minute his own line handles, Geary said. But he wants to sell beer in cans.
“It’s a completely different market, with almost no cannibalization,” Geary said. Cans are more popular with boaters, golfers and campers because they are unbreakable, lighter and take up less room when packing.
The Summer Ale will go on sale about April 1 – in bottles as well as cans. Geary said Iron Heart canned some of his flagship Pale Ale two weeks ago, and that is already out in the market.
Wille said his clients range from small breweries that want to expand beyond selling kegs and growlers, to brewers like Geary’s that want to add the can option.
“A lot of our customers don’t have any packaging,” Wille said, “and the idea of spending $300,000 to $500,000 to put in a line is tough.”
And if a brewery runs its own line, it also has to add staff.
Geary said he isn’t sure now what percentage of sales the cans will make, but he did say that only about 5 percent of his sales comes from bars and restaurants. The rest is bottles and, now, cans.
I can’t write about Geary’s Summer Ale without mentioning the packaging. Each year Geary offers a $5,000 prize to the winner of a Maine College of Art contest for designing the packaging.
This year’s winner is senior graphic design major Nicole Holmes of Branford, Conn.
Holmes was inspired by a coastal ecosystems course she took and her love of retro designs, according to Geary’s Facebook page. The design includes a lobster, a crab, an anchor and more.
NARRAGANSETT has added a couple of beers to its lineup since I last wrote about the company.
Bohemian Pils is going to be a year-round beer, joining the Narragansett Lager and Cream Ale as a full-timer.
This is a very good, clean pilsener, brewed with four different malts and, as a result, has a toasty grain flavor. It is 5.2 percent ABV, so it is a good, easy-drinking beer that goes well with food. When I first saw this beer a couple of months ago, I thought it was replacing the Narragansett Porter as the winter offering because I did not see the Porter in Maine this winter – and I missed it.
But Gansett seems to be focusing more on lagers. The flagship Narragansett Lager is aimed at the same people who drink Pabst Blue Ribbon – only with a buy-local twist. Its other beers are true craft beers. The fall Fest and spring Bock are seasonal lagers, and both are good. The Bohemian Pils is a straight-up lager with a bit more flavor than the flagship.
The other beer I tasted never showed up on Maine shelves, but our son brought it up from Massachusetts several times. Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout is a blend of Gansett’s slightly bitter milk stout and Autocrat Coffee, another Rhode Island staple. Autocrat does make coffee, but is best known for its coffee syrup, which is used to make coffee milk – an old Rhode Island tradition.
I liked this beer but found it too sweet to drink more than half a glass. Son-in-law Christian, however, loved it and gladly finished our supply. It is 5.2 percent ABV, and only available in winter, so you might have to wait until next year to give it a try.
Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: