Despite its association with cheap brands like Budweiser, canned beer is superior to its bottled counterparts in a number of ways: It stays fresher for longer (by blocking sunlight and oxygen), cans are more easily recyclable than bottles, cans don’t shatter like glass, and—perhaps most importantly for craft brewers—canned beer reaches a wider audience than bottled beer. Small breweries generally don’t have the space or resources to buy canning equipment, though, which is why you mostly see craft beer in bottles. That might not be the case for long, at least in the San Francisco Bay Area.
A group of Sustainable Management MBA graduates from Presidio Graduate School have teamed up to create the Can Van, a mobile canning service for craft breweries. "The original idea came from me talking to my dad living in Alaska, where the waste and environmental issues of bottles are a big concern because of the geographic remoteness," explains Jenn Coyle, one of the Can Van founders. Coyle brought the idea back to some of her classmates, who teamed up to make the Can Van their final business plan project at Presidio.
The Can Van team has ordered most of the equipment it needs for a mobile canning operation, including a trailer, truck, air compressor, filler, and seamer. When everything is ready to go, the canning line will be able to roll right out of the trailer and up to brewery beer tanks. The Can Van will also provide cans (which are only sold by the semi-truckload, making them inaccessible to small brewers) and labeling to breweries who pay for the service.
Judging by the response that the Can Van has already received, there is a huge market of can-hungry craft brewers just waiting to be tapped. Coyle and her coworkers have spoken to brewers in the Bay Area, Lake Tahoe, and Sacramento that are all interested. And while the Can Van won’t leave Northern California in the near future, the crew has received inquiries elsewhere, from Chicago to Idaho.
"The brewing industry really understands the importance of local business and local community, and we’re so excited to have the opportunity to be supporting it," says Coyle.
If you want to help the Can Van get off the ground, an IndieGoGo campaign is still going on here. Look for the van to start making the rounds in January.