Beer Canning In A Microbrewery


beer canning


Why can beer?


Why should you put your precious beer into a can?

The common preconception 20 years ago was that  the process of canning beer tainted the beer and made it taste tinny and metallic.  Beer out of a can tastes terrible...right?!


The science of beer canning

Many beer consumers and beer sommeliers up until recently were convinced that canned beer was an inferior beer product...including me.  But no!  The science of brewing has shown that a can is a superior beer packaging format than bottles.  This is because bottled beer can suffer from light strike giving the beer a skunky flavour.  Cans are largely made from aluminium an inert material and therefore provided that the beer is canned properly without excessive levels of dissolved oxygen (DO) then canning beer can provide the perfect beer packaging medium for brewers and microbreweries


Practicalities of beer canning

As a result of the lockdown more people than ever are ordering beer directly from their favourite microbrewery.  There are massive advantages to receiving by courier or post your beer in cans rather than bottles.  Firstly, from the microbreweries point of view the weight and costs of sending canned beer are much less.  The advantages to both microbrewery and consumer of craft beer is that the chances of breakages are much less with canned beer as opposed to bottle beers.  In terms of storage of your packaged beer then canned beer is easily stackable reducing space requirements in your microbrewery.  Aluminium the main material is also fully and easily resycalabe.


Small scale hand canning beer

Many microbreweries think that canning beer is only for the big breweries.  However, with the plethora of hand beer canning machines on the market there are now plenty of opportunities for canning beer on a small scale.  One of the big issues is to keep oxygen out of the beer which will result in your beer spoiling in the can.  Oxygen in the can is referred to as DO or dissolved oxygen.  Oxygen is prevented from entering your canned beer by purging your can prior to filling using a jet of CO2.  Once the can has been filled with the beer then the can needs to be sealed and capped as soon as quickly to prevent oxygen entering the beer.


Market trends for canning beer

SIBA has reported, on average, a 2.7% in off trade sales for canned beer over the past 5 years. This shows the importance of getting beer directly into the beer consumer’s hands, as well as on trade beer sales. 

Bottled beer is in decline with the latest stats showing a 3% decline in bottled beer production, based on SIBA’s figures, and a growing market share for canned beer – Up to nearly 5% of total beer sales in the past 5 years. The curve below suggests, getting your beer into cans is a beer packaging format that should be at least on every micrbreweries radar.

Whether you’re already a part of the ever growing beer can revolution, or are looking to enter the market there’s a few questions that you will need to ask yourself about canning beer. 


How to design your beer can?

One of the big things about canning your beer is that it gives you a 360 degree canvas to design on and reinforce your branding for your beer and brewery.  An eye catching can decorationc an literally become a work of art for your beer customers.  Things to ensure when beer canning is the quality of the seamer that creates the seal between the top and body of your can.


How to can your beer? 

Paul Evans of Oasthouse Engineering discusses your options when it comes to canning your beer:


In Brewery Beer Canning:

  • Purchasing your own fully automatic beer canning machine can be costly and require significant capital – but in doing so, will allow you to see increased efficiencies in the short term with a better quality canned beer product that ultimately reaches your beer customer

  • Small manual set up – This can be a couple of staff members operating a manual can seamer and filler set up. The cheapest option for in-house but can be costly in terms of labour and time and can leave inconsistencies in your final product 


Contract Beer Packagers:

  • There are a number of contract packergers in the UK, they have done a lot of the leg work for you in terms of having a line set up ready to get your beer in a can. However, the effect on the quality  of your beer can be an issue.  The problem being that there are multiple transfers and transportatios of your beer along the process of getting the beer from your beer tank, to your beer packagers canning line. As well as the cost incurred by the beer packager, there’s also associated logistic costs of transporting your beer.


Mobile Beer Canners:

  • Another widely selected method of canning beer is using a mobile beer canning company to bring their beer canning machine to you. This means no shipping of your beer cross-country!  In other words you can get your fermented beer straight from the tank into the beer can. In doing this, there is the associated cost of paying a company to bring their beer canning staff into your premises to can the beer, but also that daunting factor of handing your beer over to someone else to package, a scary thought when you’ve nurtured your ‘newborn’ craft beer through fermentation to maturation! 


Where should you can the beer in your microbrewery?

Space is a huge factor for a lot of microbreweries, with a growing number of microbreweries being located in constrained urban locations in railway arches, small outbuildings or commercial units.

Buying a canning line and then fitting it into your microbrewery is one thing, but something to consider is the associated space with running a beer canning line. How workable will your space be after adding a pallet of empty cans, a canning line and a packing table? Not to mention when you start adding your brewing staff to load/unload your beer canning machine. Oh, on top of all this you then want to label your beer cans? You’ll need to account for that space too. 

Once you have finished packaging your beer cans then you’ll want to make sure you keep your beer cold to ensure your craft beer is in top condition.  How are you going to ensure all this within your microbrewery?

Fortunately, there are a number of small footprint canning lines and can depalitisers available. Oasthouse outside Sheffield also has the technology and capability to be able to ensure your beer cans are pre-labelled or sleeved.  This cuts down on the need for a can labeller.

If you’re looking to store cans prior to canning, you’ll also need a suitable additional space within your microbrewery. Storing cans of beer for a prolonged period of time near combustible materials, rubber, chemicals, fuels and gaseous elements can have adverse affect on the integrity of a can liner and thereby the quality of your beer.


When are you going to start canning your beer?

Time management, particularly given the past 12 months, is a huge factor when looking to get your beer into a can. Contract and mobile beer canners are high in demand and in most instances, you will have to pre-book your beer canning slot well in advance. Beer can supply is another key aspect of Oasthouse business. They currently operate a lead time of up to 10 days, due to the sheer volumes of cans required. Decorated beer cans can have a  lead time from 3 weeks, again due to volumes. So planning to get your beer into cans, can sometimes be up to a month in advance. 


What else do I need to get your beer into cans?

So apart from space, beer cans and good time management, what else am I going to need to get canning beer successfully? Well, there’s a whole host of CANcilliary beer canning equipment that is necessary and extremely beneficial to have on hand in your microbrewery.


  • Can Ends – The most common end is a 200 end, that acts as the closure for most standard sizes of can. There is also 202, which are made to close slim (Energy Drink Style) cans

  • Compressed Air – A suitable compressor is required due to the high air intake of a majority of the beer canning lines on the market. Your compressor would ideally also be fitted with a filter/drier, to provide clean, dry air to the beer canning machine

  • Date coding – Don’t want to print your batch no/BBE onto a beer can label? You’ll require a lazer or inkjet date coder 

  • Beer Can Boxes – You’re going to need a way to package you small pack beer into easily-handled sizes

  • HMRC certified scales – In order to check your fill levels in your beer cans, you’ll want to accurately weigh your packaged beer cans

  • Dissolved Oxygen Meter – A pricey bit of kit, but extremely beneficial to check dissolved oxygen levels in your beer tanks and also in your final canned beer, ensuring quality isn’t compromised from tank to beer can

  • Depalitiser – Do you want your beer canning machine to reach its full capacity? A depalitiser will increase the efficiency of beer can loading, cutting labour and also increasing sanitisation with a number of rinsing attachments

  • Carbonation Tester – The carbonation of your beer is a key piece of information required when getting your beer canning machine set up, knowing the volumes of CO2 in your canned beer can help reduce losses and increase efficiency

What you didn’t know, you didn’t know.... about beer canning


There’s a couple of pieces of information that are commonly overlooked when either purchasing a canning line, or putting your craft beer through someone else’s canning line. 

Carbonation – knowing your beers carbonation level will help you calculate the head pressure required to push your beer through the canning line with a suitable amount of foam (To displace oxygen) or get it through the line in a controlled fashion, to reduce excessive fobbing and losses. 


Temperature – As above, the temperature of the beer plays a key part or beer packaging. Think of your beer can as a pint class, your canning fill head as a draught beer tap and your beer tank as a beer keg. If your keg isn’t cold enough, you’re going to have a real issue pouring a crisp beer with a nice creamy head into that glass


Seam Quality – With all canning machines, there should be regular beer can seam inspections carried out to ensure an adequate ‘Double Seam’ is created and that your beer is safely locked into that can! Most brewers aren’t aware of the minute tolerances involved in beer can seaming. Oasthouse Engineering works to a 0.15 micron tolerance when measuring the array of seam measurements in a beer can seam, making adjustments to ensure that the beer cans are in specification. 


Peracetic is a no go! – Generally, peracetic is a brewer’s best friend for killing off harmful bacteria. However, this is not the case when it comes to the inside of beer cans. Peracetic acid will slowly break down the liner inside a beer can wall and a by-product of this reaction if Oxygen – Canned beer’s worst enemy! 


Want to know more about canning beer? 

Oasthouse Engineering can help with a large majority of your beer packaging journey and can provide some of the best solutions on the market to all of your beer canning queries.  You can also attend a specialist beer canning course at Brew-School.


Happy Canning



Tel: 01709 780 888



Hartingtons Ltd
Hartingtons Ltd
1st Floor Rutland Mill, Rutland Mews,Coombs Road
Bakewell , DE45 1AQ United Kingdom
01629 888 586