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Forget bottles. Cans are here to stay, Ontario beer drinkers.  | CBC News

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It wasn’t long ago that a certain type of beer drinker snubbed any ale sold in cans, and purchased — almost exclusively — beer packaged in bottles, assuming it was the superior vessel.

But thanks to skyrocketing glass prices, a global supply shortage and retailers who prefer canned beer, those days are over, at least in Ontario, said David Reed, who owns Forked River Brewing in London, Ont. 

“There’s been a shift in consumer acceptance of cans. It was to the point where grocery stores wouldn’t take your product if it was in a bottle,” said Reed.

Owner of Forked River Brewing Company in London, Ont., David Reed, says he switched to can a few years ago amid soaring glass prices. (Supplied by David Reed)

Grocery stores prefer cans because they take up less space on the shelf, he said. 

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Not to mention, these days bottles are expensive.

Since Reed opened up his brewery nine years ago, glass prices have steadily increased, which is why Forked River made the switch to cans a few years ago.

“Definitely we’ve seen the prices in glass bottles go up 70 per cent in the last four or five years,” said Reed, who pointed to glass plants shutting down or relocating.

“We’ve really pivoted to cans,” he said. “We have a bottling line here that basically collects dust because we’ve moved to mostly cans.” 

Until recently, the brewery was still bottling its higher-end, barrel-aged beers, but even those are now packaged in cans, said Reed. And the brewery has dumped selling new growlers too.

Forked River Brewing owner David Reed says beer can technology has improved, and is the superior receptacle over the bottle (Supplied by David Reed)

Cans are better anyway

“The current trend toward cans in Ontario wasn’t actually driven by breweries or even consumer choices,” said London-based beer writer, Ben Johnson.

“The truth is that the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) prefers cans because they are easier to stock, stack, and shelve,” he said. “Brewers converted to cans to increase the odds the LCBO would list their product so they might actually be able to sell more.” 

Ben Johnson is a London-based beer writer. (Supplied by Ben Johnson)

And because the LCBO is the biggest game in town, breweries deliver what it wants, said Johnson.

According to both Reed and Johnson, cans are better anyway.

They’re safer to transport, fully recyclable and don’t break. Plus, cans now have better liners to protect the taste of the beer. And they have better air-tight seal than bottles too.

“The two main enemies of beer are air and light,” he said. “Beer in cans is much better protected from the things that can oxidize your beer or make it taste skunk.”

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