As Iron Horse Brewery looked to 2019, it was apparent that being agile in an ever-changing marketplace would need to be a priority. Couple that with a brewery that has a flagship brand (Quilter’s Irish Death) representing close to 80% of the volume mix, it’s essential to have a fluid cycle of innovation.
One of our key learnings over the last couple of years is that innovation doesn’t always have to happen in brand and style. It can be in efficiencies, technology, deployment of resources, data analysis and package type, which brings me to the purpose of my blog today. 16oz cans. Let me first start by saying this isn’t some “light-bulb” moment we had that will revolutionize the face of craft beer, shit, according to the Beer Can Timeline 16oz cans have been around since 2004. Really what I’m here to talk about is in order to best understand the demand of a consumer base, you need to appeal to as much of the sample as possible. In the past we only had the ability to package our product in draught, 22oz bottles and pre-print 12oz and 16oz cans. With the hard work and research of our production team and Greg’s checkbook, we will now have the ability produce customized label 16oz cans. What does that mean?
Let me walk you through 5 reasons 16oz cans are going to be a fun package for IHB in 2019.
- Iron Horse Brewery has been active with our Brewers Choice series (innovation), which allows for our brewers to explore different styles of beer but only being able to package these beers in draught. Draught is only obtainable at [ the pub ] (Ellensburg) or at select On Premise accounts throughout our wholesale network…that’s a channel of the business that represents roughly 30% of our volume mix. That means a large percentage of our consumers are missing out on any opportunity to sample new styles of beers from IHB because it was ONLY offered in draught. As you can imagine, we flagged this as an opportunity to refine our process and increase the sample size. Moving forward in 2019, we will have a steady flow of Brewers Choice styles of beer offered in the 16oz can.
- We continue to see a deterioration of the 22oz bottle in the Off Premise channel which is due in part to consumer demand for cans versus bottles. So in 2019, the second track of our Seasonal Brand offerings will also be offered in 16oz cans. This second track of Seasonal Brands in 2018 was GRAMPS (Hazy IPA), Crazy Aunt (Fruity IPA) and In-Law (Imperial IPA). The extended family series will continue in 2019, so be on the lookout for those family members in the form of a 16oz can at your favorite grocery store.
- Back in 2017, IHB created an outreach program called Hopping Hands. The intention of this program was to give back to community efforts in need, giving a percentage of our profits to these organizations. At the time, this was in the form of a single hop IPA that we would produce and package in draught for the On Premise. Now in 2019, with the investment around the 16oz can, we can now increase our reach and partnerships with these charitable organizations and appeal to a wider range of consumers.
- Draught only brands. Selfishly, I think this is one of the most exciting parts of the 16oz can innovation for me. Have you ever wondered or wanted an existing brand that we only offered in draught? Oh I don’t know, maybe like 509 or Light Rail Ale? That’s right… at some point in 2019 we’re going to throw these awesome liquids in a 16oz can, slap it with a fun and unique looking label and see how it goes… Again, it’s a great opportunity for us to see if we have potential with existing brands in our portfolio that have really had no opportunity to flourish in the Off Premise channel.
- Artist Series. The last and most “outside of our comfort zone” part of the 16oz can innovation will be the labels themselves. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the really cool labels that breweries are producing with artist partners out there… flying cats, multi-color and patterned scapes, stick figures, etc… it’s become an additional thread in the fabric of the brewing community, the “totally out there, ridiculous” labels have really been a point of differentiation between the independent breweries and the faux craft breweries. So it’s only right that our head of marketing, Jared Vallejo, partner up with some radical artists and let the creative juices flow. Heck… maybe we find something that sticks and we take it to pre-print cans? In conclusion, be on the lookout for more information on 16oz can offerings coming to your neck of the woods (via Twitter, Instagram, FB and our website). I can’t wait to see what the marketing and brewing team have in store for this new vehicle to market from Iron Horse Brewery.