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Why local breweries are switching from beer bottles to cans

Montauk Brewing Company is among the first craft

Montauk Brewing Company is among the first craft breweries on Long Island to introduce local canned beer to Nassau and Suffolk counties. Credit: Montauk Brewing Company

Earlier this month, Matt and Lauri Spitz of Moustache Brewing Co. in Riverhead rolled out the first of their canned brews — Proton IPA — in a move they’re hoping will increase production and sales.

More than 50 percent of beers sold in the United States are bought in cans, a rising statistic since 2006, according to the Colorado-based Brewers Association. Yet, with craft and microbrews accounting for only 12 percent of yearly sales, canned beers from craft breweries remain very niche.

Cans are touted as more environmentally friendly and less expensive than bottling beer. They’re easier to cool down, they’re stackable and they’re allegedly more efficient in locking in flavor. Yet many beer drinkers prefer the aesthetic of bottles and some question the use of bisphenol A or BPA, a synthetic compound that prevents the contents from reacting with aluminum. In such small amounts, BPA has been given the OK by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Other local brewers have paved the way for the Moustache folks. Long Ireland Beer Company, also in Riverhead, introduced a selection of canned beers in June.

“Sales for Summer Ale have definitely gone up,” said co-owner Dan Burke of the move. A four-pack of Long Ireland Summer Ale and a six-pack of Celtic ale run about $12.

Though Long Ireland sales are currently focused on Nassau and Suffolk counties, the company is looking for wider distribution in the five boroughs and Dutchess County. And it’s plotting a switch to all cans within the next six months.

Montauk Brewing Company made the move to cans in the spring of 2013, when it rolled out Driftwood Ale and Montauk Summer Ale.

“It was a big decision for us to switch to cans,” said Vaughan Cutillo, spokesperson and partner in the company. It made sense for them, since “we wanted to offer beer people could drink outside, on a beach or on a boat.”

Montauk Driftwood Ale remains available year-round, along with Montauk Session IPA and a rotating selection of seasonal brews. Beers are sold in six-pack cartons and cost from $10.99 to $12.99.

Two years after the company debuted canned brews, Montauk Brewing expanded distribution to New York City and saw triple the sales they anticipated in the first year. But it’s not just cans and wider distribution that accounts for the spike.

“There’s been a slight change in people’s beer drinking habits in the past couple years,” said Cutillo. ”More people are wanting to drink beer at home.”

Most of these beers are available at specialty markets across Long Island.

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