When Does Packaging Become Worth the Effort?

Finding the line of when to start to package beer is tricky. For Indiana’s Taxman Brewing, the magic number for when it’s appropriate for a brewery to move into packaging outside of its taproom, co-owner and Chief Production Officer Colin McCloy said his brewery needed to be able to commit at least 1,000 barrels of product to the operation to see any sort of return.

“It’s cool to have your beer in a can or bottle to take to parties and show off and be proud of your brand, but it costs a lot, especially if you don’t have the equipment onsite to do it,” he said to fellow Indiana brewers and brewery owners at the 2017 Indiana Craft Brewers Conference in late March.

Investments can be substantial with prices for canning lines starting in the six figure range and nearing half a million.

Taxman, which made 4,000 BBLs in 2016, canned 1,200 BBLs while adding 200 more BBLs in bomber form.


The brewery recently switched from mobile canning to buying its own line. Although a good way to start, McCloy admitted it ate into the brewery’s margins to have to pay to have the work done, which meant 40 percent of the margin going into the packaging while returns saw at most 30 percent.

Selling packages from the taproom may save on margins, but McCloy noted that for his brewery, the volume wasn’t there much for those sales, netting as little as a barrel of product per week in can sales.

“If you can justify going to a higher volume and moving canning to in house you will start to see the margins come back,” he said. “Then labor is the cost instead of fill cost.”

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