Can I kick it?

For Asheville Brewing Company, the canning-versus-bottling debate had a simple answer. “We are a company filled with kayakers, climbers and hikers, so we really want to go light on the environment with our business,” says Mike Rangel, president of ABC. “Canning simply extends our core beliefs on that.”

Cans, as local adventurers will tell you, work much better in Western North Carolina — easy to carry and no chance of broken glass. It’s also illegal to bring glass containers into North Carolina state parks, beaches or state-designated rivers; these rules appear to be spreading to other recreational areas.

Nonetheless, modern microbrews have typically been poured into bottles or some variety of keg. Canned beer? That was the mark of Schlitz, PBR or Budweiser. Home brewers the world over still lament there’s not a decent automated canning option for them.

ABC considered canning for some time before launch- ing its first production run last November, Rangel explains. “As the costs decreased, it became obvious to me, a no-brainer even, [that] we had to go with cans,” he says. Last fall, ABC started canning its Shiva IPA and has since added Rocket Girl Lager. The company produces about 200 cans per day, and with some tweaks to the system, will soon do about 400, Rangel notes.

While that’s modest compared to the larger companies that can crank out that many cans per second, it’s a big step for local brewers.

In February, Morganton-based Catawba Valley Brewing “joined the craft-can revolution,” local beer blogger Anne Fitten Glenn reported. And most recently, Oskar Blues, which started in 1997 in Lyons, Colo., and was one of the first craft breweries to can its concoctions, announced that it’s opening an East Coast facility in nearby Brevard.

Last year, Oskar Blues produced 15 million cans of beer, which, if flattened and laid out in a line, amounts to about 1,800 miles of aluminum. Or 45 trips between Asheville and Brevard.

— Bill Rhodes can be reached at brhodes@mountainx.com or 251-1333, ext. 144.

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