Boulevard Brewing Co. File photo by Keith Myers | kmyers@kcstar.com

Boulevard looks to expand its canned beer offerings by bringing packaging operation to KC

Craft beer enthusiasts who like sipping brew from a can may be in for some good news: Boulevard Brewing Co. is exploring a new facility in town that would allow more canned offerings.

Boulevard will appear before the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority on Thursday to seek approval of revenue bonds for a planned $10 million, 24,000-square-foot packaging facility that would bring the brewing company’s canning operations to Kansas City.

Right now, Boulevard packages a few of its beers in aluminum cans — Unfiltered Wheat, Heavy Lifting India Pale Ale and Ginger Lemon Radler, to name a few. Boulevard started canning beer in 2015, using canning facilities in California and Minnesota. But Boulevard would like to consolidate the canning operation in Kansas City, which would also allow the brewery to expand its canned offerings.

“Right now, we’re severely constrained in what we can do because we’re doing it all off site,” Boulevard president Jeff Krum said Wednesday.

Krum said work on establishing a canning facility is early and includes lining up financing and approval by the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority. If it all works out, it would be the third phase of an expansion of its Kansas City headquarters that started in 2010 with a brewhouse addition and in 2014 with Cellar Five, a facility that increased the brewery’s beer-making capacity.

Expanding canned beer offerings would meet growing demand among craft beer drinkers.

 

A January 2017 analysis by the Brewers Association, a trade group for the craft beer industry, said while bottled beer continues to dominate how craft beer is packaged, canned versions are catching up.

Canned beer accounted in 2016 for about 5 percent of craft beer volume, which represents a steady increase since 2011 when the offering barely registered a blip, according to the Brewers Association analysis.

Aluminum cans —once regarded as the carrier of cheaper, mass-produced beer — has taken hold in the craft beer industry, particularly among smaller and newer breweries. While the Brewers Association reports that consumers tend to rate bottles higher for freshness and quality, that gap is closing. Cans are also easier to recycle and have an easier time finding their way into outdoor venues.

“We don’t see it as a fad, but rather as a long-term trend and made the determination that even though it’s super-expensive to do it right, it’s an investment that needed to be made,” Krum said.

Steve Vockrodt: 816-234-4277, @st_vockrodt