With a signature crack and the telltale “whoosh” sound, summer refreshment is just a popped top away.

Few things are more satisfying on a hot day than a cold beer or a glass of wine. People want a beverage that’s portable and easy to drink. But glass bottles can be a safety hazard in many outdoor places, and are often banned in parks, at pools or in other public places.

Enter the aluminum can.

After years of being looked down on by beer aficionados, the lowly aluminum can is experiencing a comeback. Craft brewers — and even a local wine-maker — are embracing its portability, cost-effectiveness and environmental impact to get their products into people’s hands in a cheap and easy way.

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From lounging around the pool, relaxing in a park or partying at the Indianapolis 500, craft canning is popping up throughout central Indiana.

“You can’t take glass to the (Indianapolis 500), so it’s allowing our wine drinkers in Indiana to still be able to enjoy some wine where glass may not be allowed, be it at the pool or on the lake or on the beach,” said Sarah Shadday, marketing director for Mallow Run Winery in Bargersville.

The ability to go where glass can’t intrigued the team at Mallow Run Winery.

They had become familiar with canning when they introduced their own hard cider in 2015. With the success they had selling carry-out packages of cider, they started looking for new options for canned beverages.

“In the last one or two years, there’s been this very slow-burning trend of canning wines. It doesn’t include the Midwest yet, but it’s really coming up on the West Coast,” Shadday said. “We thought, why not try it?”

Their inspiration came with the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Mallow Run opted to can wine from their Traminette grapes, being Indiana’s signature grape. They designed special labels celebrating the race, and played up the fact they could take their product to the track throughout the month of May.

The result was the 100 Canned Traminette.

“When you’re out and about and trying to pack a cooler or have a picnic, glass wine bottles can be kind of clunky. You have to keep it protected, you have to have a corkscrew, you have to have glasses,” Shadday said. “Canning it allows it to be a little more convenient.”

For the first two decades of the craft movement, glass bottles and larger carry-out growlers of draft beer were the primary modes of sales.

Bottles are still the main mode of sale at stores, according to the IRI Group data analyzers. Nearly 50 percent of all sales come from six-packs of bottles.

Six-packs of cans make up only about four percent. But the market has shown a tremendous growth rate, accounting for 50 percent of the growth of sales for craft beer, according to IRI.

Estimates around 2010 show that only about 60 craft breweries were using cans. This year, more than 550 breweries throughout the U.S. can beers, with more than 2,100 styles available, according to CraftCans.com, a database for canned beer in the U.S.

In Indiana alone, 22 breweries offer 129 beers in cans.

Canning offers a wealth of advantages over glass bottles. Aluminum cans are more eco-friendly, and are one of the most easily recyclable products in the world. An aluminum can is able to be reprocessed, used in a new product and be back on shelves in 60 days, according to the Aluminum Association.

By keeping light away from the beer, aluminum maintains its freshness longer.

“The appeal of craft beer, as opposed to macro beer, is it’s all about the flavor. It’s not about marketing. Cans take better care of the beer, and allow for the best product possible,” said Andrew McLean, founder of Indiana Mobile Canning.

Indiana Mobile Canning had its start in 2012, when a group of entrepreneurs saw a similar operation working in Colorado. The concept was relatively simple: by loading its canning equipment on a box truck, they could drive to individual breweries.

In the span of about four hours, they could connect to the brewery’s beer supply and have a full load of canned beer filled, sealed and labeled.

“It seemed like such a win-win on all sides. Our company could focus on this one thing, so that the breweries could focus on all of the other things that they do,” said Andrew McLean, founder of Indiana Mobile Canning and its partner company, Michigan Mobile Canning. “The brewing and the packaging are pretty different from each other.”

The canning equipment McLean uses takes up about an 8-foot-by-30-foot area. Besides breweries having to invest more than $100,000 in their own equipment if they wanted to have a canning line, they’d need to eat up valuable space in their facility.

With mobile canning, they only need to clear out that space for a short time, McLean said.

The company has worked with 16 Indiana breweries canning their beer, including Mallow Run and Taxman Brewing Co. in Bargersville.

Taxman started offering cans in early 2015, and now features its La Maison, Gold Standard and three other house beers throughout Indiana.

For a small brewer, the option to have a mobile canner come to their facility made more financial sense, said Nathan Huelsebusch, co-owner of Taxman Brewing. Investing in a canning line for their brewery would cost about $110,000, and take up too much space.

“We recognized that cans were the more popular vessel in Indiana. The state is a very can-centric market,” Huelsebusch said. “Plus, since we’re Belgian-focused, we’d become one of the only breweries in the Midwest doing Belgian-style dubbels and tripels in a can.”

The response has been positive in terms of growth and sales, Huelsebusch said.

Taxman beer is now offered in grocery stores and liquor stores from Mishawaka to Evansville. They sell to around 200 stores and retail outlets, and have developed relationships with larger stores such as Kroger and Target.

For Mallow Run, nearly all of their customers appreciated the offering in cans.

Though some couldn’t stomach drinking their wine from a can, the vast majority of customers really like the idea, Shadday said.

“I’d say 99 percent of people thought it was awesome,” she said. “One of the things about Indiana is we don’t have a long-established wine culture. In Europe, they’ve been doing the same thing for hundreds of years, and how dare you change things.

“But the Midwest is very receptive to new things and experiments. We’re not a snooty part of wine country.”

Though there haven’t been any firm announcements yet, Mallow Run is tinkering with the next way to best take advantage of canning.

“The response to the 100 has been so great that it’s not the end of us having fun with it,” Shadday said.

At a glance

Johnson County’s Canned Beers (and Wine)

La Maison

Who: Taxman Brewing Co., Bargersville

What: As Taxman’s “house” beer, this French farmhouse saison is our tribute to the vibrant and varied saison style with aromatic hops from the Pacific Northwest and a generous dose of Indiana clover honey for a bright, refreshing body.

Gold Standard

Who: Taxman Brewing Co., Bargersville

What: This quaffable abbey blonde features dynamic Belgian esters and a light, dry body blend with subtle malt flavors and delicate grassy hops.


Who: Taxman Brewing Co., Bargersville

What: Deduction is an abbey-style dubbel showcasing sweet, malty notes with hints of dark fruit, complemented by mild bitterness from classic European hops.


Who: Taxman Brewing Co., Bargersville

What: An abbey-style tripel, this crisp golden strong ale blends lemon, orange peel, and coriander spices with flavorful Belgian esters. White wheat, oat and Belgian artisan malts contribute a moderate body.


Who: Taxman Brewing Co., Bargersville

What: A sessionable Belgian-style wit, this beer is brewed with Belgian pilsner and German pale wheat, finished with hops from the Pacific Northwest and Australia. It has a delicate balance of sweetness and orange spice.

100 Canned Traminette

Who: Mallow Run Winery, Bargersville

What: A limited release created to celebrate the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, this is a semi-sweet white with floral notes and flavors of apple and tropical fruit.

Hard Cider

Who: Mallow Run Winery, Bargersville

What: This unique sweet-tart blend is crisp and refreshing, made in the same small-batch methods as Mallow Run’s wines. The apples come from Indianapolis’ Adrian Orchards.

Hopped Hard Cider

Who: Mallow Run Winery, Bargersville

What: Also made with fresh apples from Adrian Orchards, this cider is dry-hopped with Citra and Centennial hops to add floral and citrus aromas similar to an IPA, but without the bitterness.

Red Flyer

Who: Hoosier Brewing, Franklin

What: This classic Irish red ale is the flagship beer of Hoosier Brewing Co., soon opening its facility on the east side of Franklin. The balanced hops and malt create an overwhelmingly approachable beer.

HOOPA Hoosier Pale Ale

Who: Hoosier Brewing, Franklin

What: A celebration of hops that jumps up ahead of the malt flavors, this beer serves as an ideal gateway for people looking to move from lighter beverages to more hoppy beers.

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.