Red Lodge Ales moves over to cans as industry template changes

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Photo by Alastair Baker
Four pallets of 32,676 aluminum cans tower over Sam Hoffmann, owner of Red Lodge Ales. The company has replaced it’s bottling operation for canning after market trends dictated that sales of canned craft beer will overtake bottled craft beers within two years.

Sam Hoffmann, the owner of Red Lodge Ales, factored in a number of reasons behind his craft beer business opting for a future in aluminum cans rather than bottles.

“A big part of it is demographics, 25-35 year-olds are drinking out of cans and they drink the most beer. The growth in bottled crafts beers is in decline. The cost of bottling glass has gone up dramatically in recent years. We had aging equipment and were competing with (other) cans on the shelf,” he said. 

“There’s also its portability where people like to go down the river or ski. Can’s are a much more convenient package,” he added.

A Nielsen poll recently predicted canned beer will outsell bottled beer by 2021. 

Hoffmann started this journey back in 2018 vetting manufacturers; design work, package material, to putting the equipment where he wanted it. First Interstate Bank provided funding for the changeover.

The new operating area for the canning line only covers a 600 sq. ft. area at his plant north of Red Lodge.

“I’m always amazed how technology moves on. It’s a credit to American ingenuity. German companies have tried to reduce the footprint for American craft brewers but American companies actually build stuff for us in mind where we don’t have much room. Back in the day, you’d have needed a 10,000 sq. ft. for this,” he said.

Cost savings will be immense, with trucks now able to carry 200,000 plus cans as opposed to 90,000 bottles. Each palette delivered holds 8,169 cans. 

The new operation oversees 60 cans a minute up from 40 bottles a minute. 

“Maybe we can get up to 70 cans later,” said Hoffmann. 

All the aluminum cans have a water-based liner inside “so you don’t get that aluminum flavor you may have got in the past,” said Hoffmann. 

Such is the revolution in canning even the daily production is down by nearly half depending on the time of year and style of beer said Hoffmann. In the old days of bottling an average day could be 10-hours with clean up, now it’s reduced to around 5 hours. 

Although come summer he says when there are 1,000 case runs in a day he expects there to be over 6 hours of canning. 

There have also been some design changes with in house artist Megan Kalb redesigning the labels while keeping the colors associated with the beers “as people are used to them,” he said.

Because of the freedom canning brings, Hoffmann is producing twin packs and seasonal mixed packs to freshen things up. 

Hoffmann is pleased with the response to Red Lodge Ales debut in cans with the product “flying off the shelves at the Beartooth Market and Town Pump.”

“The seasonal 6 packs have been very popular,” said Hoffmann.

Some of Hoffmann’s beers will still be bottled but only the 22oz. ones and then only in Billings. 

Tours of the Red Lodge Ales canning production will be available over the coming months. 



Upcoming Events

  • Monday, May 20, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Joliet Group meets at the Community Center Monday at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 21, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 23, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Meets every Thursday, 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation, 122 S. Hauser. It is open to all. 425- 1755.
  • Thursday, May 23, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Clarks Fork Group meets at St. Joseph’s Catholic Hall, north end of Montana Avenue, Thursday at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, May 24, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Rock Creek Group meets Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. at Calvary Church, 9 N Villard, Red Lodge.
  • Monday, May 27, 2019 - 7:00am
    *American Legion Carbon County Post 17 Memorial Day schedule, May 27 7 a.m. Breakfast at Red Lodge Café 8:30 a.m. Memorial Service at Belfry Cemetery 9:30 a.m. Memorial Service at Bearcreek Cemetery 10:30 a.m. Parade through Red Lodge.  10:15 a.m. Meet at the corner of 14th and Broadway. Following parade there will be a lunch  at the Red Lodge Elk’s Lodge 11 a.m. Memorial Service at Red Lodge Cemetery 1:30 p.m. Parade in Roberts followed by Memorial Service at Roberts Cemetery. For further information contact Kenneth Beggs, Commander Carbon County Post 17 at   *The Clarks Fork American Legion Post 71 and the Joliet VFW Post 5748 will be doing Memorial Day services Monday, May 27. Rev. Robert Reed of the Joliet Baptist  Church will be the Speaker of the day.   The schedule for the day will be: 9 a.m. Services at the Gebo Cemetery. 9:30 a.m. March through Fromberg Main St. 10 a.m.   Services at Rockvale Cemetery 11 a.m. Services at Joliet Cemetery 11:30 a.m. March through Joliet Main St. A potluck lunch will be held at the  Joliet Community Center following the services.  Everyone is welcome to come. Any veterans who would like to help who haven’t been contacted can show up at the Gebo Cemetery at 8:45 a.m. Memorial Day or call Rich Pierce at 962-3320 or Jody Stene 962-3779.  

The Carbon County News

Street Address:

11 N. Broadway, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 970, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Phone: 406-446-2222

Fax: 406-446-2225

Toll-Free: 800-735-8843

Open: Monday-Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.