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Friday, April 1st 2016

Lack of Cans Pushes Brewers to Package Beer in Mini Barrels

Are small wooden barrels making up for a short fall in cans?

Before there were stainless steel kegs, glass bottles, or aluminum cans there were wooden barrels. For today's brewers, wooden barrels are used for just one thing - aging beer - a process that allows the beer to pick up the subtle flavors of bourbon and other spirits that once embodied them. A lack of available cans in the current market however is pushing some craft brewers to think outside the box can and get creative when it comes to alternative packaging solutions. Enter the "mini barrel". The what? It's excactly what it sounds like, a small barrel that holds 12 oz. of beer and provides the means of getting your favorite beer from the brewery to your fridge. 

John Stanger, President of Wooden Beverage Solutions, is confident that there is a growing place in the market for wood beverage holders. Stanger states, "this is a product that can be sent down the canning line in place of cans, it is biodegradable, and it provides an aesthetic that simply has not existed until now".

While it is true that the mini barrels, once filled, weigh quite a bit more than their aluminum cousins, and the need to deal with the barrels manually requires additional time and labor, they do make for quite a beer drinking experience.

12 oz. of craft beer in a tiny wooden barrel

"...Technology is pretty much cylical

and I feel like a giant viking right now!"

"Technology is pretty much cyclical and I feel like a giant viking right now!", said John Littner of Chicago, one of the first to get his hands on a mini barrel of Lagunitas IPA. He went on to say, "the beer picks up just enough of the wood to mellow it out and provide for a soft mouthfeel. I can't wait to get some pics of these things up on my Instagram account and hashtag the shit out of them. These are so rad, dude. So rad."

"...all i really taste is wood."

Others are not sold on the idea of their favorite craft beer in a tiny wooden keg. Darren Stolson of Royal Oak, Michigan was a bit concerned. "I think the wood is going to affect the way the beer tastes. When I take a sip, all I really taste is wood. It has a woody flavor I just can't shake and for that reason I think I'm going to stick with bottles...and cans. F this S."

It is unclear just how many American craft brewers have begun using mini barrels, or simply MBs, but Stanger of Wooden Beverage Solutions says that the vessels are already quite popular in some former Soviet republics as well as in a few places in Micronesia. 

Whether MBs are here to stay or are just providing a temporary solution for craft brewers is yet to be determined. This may just be the next big thing in craft beer...or maybe not. Who knows. Nobody thought cans would take off so perhaps awkward little wooden barrels will too? Only time will tell. Cheers!


Posted by Russ