Lagunitas Brewing: “We’ll be the last brewery in the US to use aluminum cans”

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(Petaluma, CA) – Lagunitas Brewing Owner, Tony Magee, took to Twitter last night to sound off on the hottest packaging trend of the last couple years: cans.

And he doesn’t like them one bit.

Though cans are championed for their portability, availability in recreational outdoor venues and post-packaging environmental benefits, there is a darker side that brewers do not acknowledge: mining of bauxite. Many have already written about the environmental impact of bauxite mining though Lagunitas may be the first brewer to take it to this level. Here is a just a snippet of a report from Triple Pundit:

In order to remove the aluminum from the bauxite heavy chemicals are needed to dissolve the ore materials from the soil. Sodium Hydroxide, a nasty chemical, is paired with extreme heat to accomplish this task. Five tons of bauxite is needed to produce one ton of unrefined aluminum (alumina). When you consider just how many tons of aluminum are used in the United States alone each year with only a 50% recycle rate, that adds up to a lot of moved earth. And don’t think that the remains from the process are harmless, just ask Hungary which had to evacuate entire towns due to the remaining toxic sludge breaking through its dam. These places are unable to sustain plant life and won’t in the near future.

Aluminums cans, as with anything, have their pros and cons.

 

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26 thoughts on “Lagunitas Brewing: “We’ll be the last brewery in the US to use aluminum cans”

  1. Really glad Tony brought this up. Environmentally, cans vs. bottles is a wash. Here’s a very thorough explanation of why: http://slate.me/weiauq

    If we’re being honest though, silica mining is also energy intensive and environmentally destructive, although it tends not to leave behind the toxic soup left by bauxite mining.

    By far the most environmentally sound option is drinking locally made beer on-tap. This coming from someone planning on using cans.

  2. Is it true that recycling an aluminum can saves over 95% of the energy to make a new one? I read in Fermenting Revolution that that saves enough to power a television for 3 hours.

  3. He brings up good points but you really have to look at a life cycle analysis of the can or bottle. States that can recycling rates are 50%, but what are they for glass. There are a lot of variables (miles traveled, recycle rate and number of times, etc) that it usually is a wash. The pros of cans in terms of portability and outdoor sports/recreation is why I am a strong supporter of them.

    But nothing beats a growler from your local!

  4. Mining bauxite may be bad for the environment, but Laguintas is ignoring a very important point- recycling aluminum is way cheaper than mining bauxite. Meaning that the demand for mining bauxite to meet our aluminum needs is not near as high as the much greener, safer alternative of recycling the aluminum we already have.

    Couple that with how expensive, both monetarily and energy wise, it is to produce and recycle glass and we can see that canning still has far more pros and cons.

  5. Since I love canned craft beer, I guess I won’t have to worry about drinking any Lagunitas beer anytime soon. That’s perfectly fine with me as a cold can of Big Sky IPA suits me just fine.

  6. Ignoring any claim of being green, cans are still better than bottles in nearly every way. Ultimately they protect the beer better and that’s the whole point. Bottles make better spittoons but that’s about it.

  7. thank god Lagunitas has the decency to actually care about stuff like this and not just make decisions based on profitability

    keep up the good work guys!

    cheers from Oregon

  8. Can’t use cans for homebrewing either…That’s how I ensure my glass gets 100% recycled.

  9. Then perhaps they can be the first ones to champion a home-draft system like Miller.

  10. Not just the environmental concerns, but the reputation beer in cans has. Beer does taste different in cans, and even putting good beer in cans cheapens its perception. My favorite is Sam Adams, and I keep hearing they’re playing around with the idea of canning their beer. Even though theirs is far superior to the likes of Bud, Miller, Coors, etc, it just in my mind makes it seem cheap and less like a premium beer when they go to cans. To me, canned beer just sounds like something you play pong with or buy when you want a cheap buzz, not a beer you want to sit down and enjoy.
    IMO, draft beer in a glass and beer poured from a bottle into a glass is always better than beer drunk from the bottle, and bottled beer is always better than beer from a can.

  11. Crafted beer, manufactured outrage.

    You make good beer, Tony Magee, and since it’s your beer, the packaging choice is yours. I just feel tired thinking about how many snobs I’m going to have to listen to repeating your opinion as dogma.

    Bauxite mining is bad for the Earth. So is building a brewery. No plants will ever be able to grow again (or at least for a very long time) where you poured the slab for Lagunitas. The Earth has been scarred by the network of roads that you use to transport the beer from your brewery to the wholesalers. A trip over to http://lagunitas.com/gallery/ shows all kinds of pictures of big, scary industry stuff, none of which looks compatible with the ideals of the movie FernGully*.

    If you’re posting to Twitter, I imagine you’re doing so through a smart phone. Check out the hellish nightmare for the planet that was the harvesting of all the rare earth metals that make that convenient tool function.

    I think the commenter Erik is probably a lot closer to the truth than Tony Magee. This is an aesthetic choice, and all this hoopla about bauxite mining feels very after-the-fact, as if you needed to find some hip justification to support the opinion you already had about cans.

    Again–your beer, your call. It’s damn good beer, too. I just know now that there’s going to be a new category of people whose opinions I’m going to have to bottle (can?) up inside lest I spend my whole life arguing about this along with vaccinations, and water fluoridation, and the moon landing and homeopathic medicine…

    *Apparently, there’s no space in the word “FernGully.” Who knew?

  12. I agree with Jeremy, I believe neither is particularly good for the environment nor does one clearly win out. I personally think that in most cases cans are a better medium of storage for beer and personally do not believe there is a noticeable difference in taste other than perception. Perhaps my pallet is simply not sophisticated enough to discern such things. How could Oscar Blues and other can only beers be so successful if the aluminum was a prominent factor in its taste? I would put a Ten Fidy in a can against nearly any other imperial stout in a bottle. Still, do I hope that cans replace bottles? Absolutely not. Am I glad to see an increase in craft beer cans? Absolutely! I think it is the producers choice and do not believe we will ever be in an all or nothing situation.

  13. The next big trend in beer packaging is going to be…wait for it…wood. Nothing like popping open a nice bamboo vessel knowing it is bauxite and silica free.

  14. Mr. Magee – You make great beer, but stick to that instead of sharing your opinion on issues you don’t understand (and spreading ignorance on issues concerning the earth).

    “Have u thought much bout Bauxite mining? It’s the mineral aluminum is derived from. Funny, but there’s none mined in the US. Hmm.
    90+% of the Bauxite is mined in emerging economies and Australia. ”

    You’re obviously trying to insinuate some sort of socioeconomic reason bauxite is mined in these places, and that the consequences of bauxite mining are the reasons it is not mined in the US. The reason bauxite is not mined in the US is because there is very little bauxite here:

    http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/bauxite/mcs-2009-bauxi.pdf

    Believe it or not, there are plenty of responsible bauxite mining operations worldwide. Check out some of the things Alcoa does to restore mining sites.

    Where on earth did you get the information that “when Aluminum is recycled a large portion is vaporized when burning off the inks and melting” ??? This is completely ridiculous. If aluminum did vaporize, it immediately returns to its solid or liquid state when it reaches a cooler temperature. Remember that matter cannot be created nor destroyed, and there is not aluminum vapor from recycling plants just floating around in the atmosphere. I think you need to re-read the sentence you took that from again.

    “I don’t mean harm to other small brewers who wanna use cans”

    It seems that is exactly what you are trying to do. I am not going to go tit-for-tat on cans versus bottles; it is a complex issue that can’t be explained on Twitter or a message board. If you want to use bottles, do that, and promote the benefits you are claiming and believe in. One of the great things about craft brewing has been that they have a friendly competitive spirit, and don’t trash one another like the big brewers do. It seems like now that some are bigger, that is going out the window.

    You claim the other side is spreading “lies within lies”. However, in the two cases above, I point out that what you are saying is inaccurate, and some might call that “lying”.

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  16. The reason he’s gone out of his way to spew information into your faces is because he along with many other well off craft brewing companies are sick of getting emails from you no life dorks asking “when ya gonna can your beer, when ya gonna hop on this massive trend.. So on and so forth” it has its flaws just like bottling so why bad mouth him for being outspoken? He’s just refused not to sugar coat his disinterest in cans unlike dogfish head and founders. If this is to harsh for you and you still need to be spoonfed you really haven’t been paying attention to lagunitas over the years and I think wine trending would be a much suitable hobby for you

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  18. When I was a kid, 16 oz. soda bottles were returned for the store with a 10 cent redemption value on each…then they went back to the bottlers and reused. What was wrong with this??? Reusing is so much better than recycling. Why melt beer bottles down just to make the same thing again? We need a movement for reuse of glass bottles, with redemption return values and collection, etc. I do not think there are any sanitation issues whatsoever, once they’ve been run through a hot wash. Plus, when I was a kid we used to get those rare older bottles once in a while, like the Dr. Pepper with the clock on the label.

    Viva glass….aluminum imparts a bad taste to everything….I personally can’t drink beer from a can without feeling like a douchebag drinking some crappy macro-processed piss.

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