The news that Nexus Brewery was preparing to can its own beers had slowly trickled out over the last few months, but there was still nothing 100-percent official as to when those cans would arrive at both locations.
Well, the cans have landed, and are officially on sale now, with a big release party on Wednesday at the original location and the Blue Smokehouse. To learn a little more about what all went into canning at a brewpub, I sat down with head brewer Randy King late Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s really all about the pandemic,” he said. “Our sales were down to almost nothing, and we needed to figure out an outlet to sell beer. We’re taking baby steps, but we’ve got four-packs of cans right now and we’re selling just out of here and Nexus Blue Smokehouse.”
The initial can lineup features three of the best sellers at the brewery, plus one special offering for a limited time.
“They’re our biggest sellers, those (three) and IPA,” King said. “The Scotch Ale is our flagship beer. People really love it and we’re proud of it. Putting these three — Imperial Cream, Honey Chamomile Wheat, and Scotch Ale — were not even a (hard) decision. We’re going to do it. The IPA we sell just as much of, but we’re a little hesitant to jump in there.
“Black is Beautiful, I really thought it would be a fantastic idea to release as our first canned beer. It’s such a cool national collaboration. Our Black is Beautiful (proceeds) is going to the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. It’s just a one-off, obviously, but it’s a beautiful beer, it’s a beautiful can, and it’s a great cause to lead with for Nexus, especially as a black-owned brewery.”
The three main offerings are fairly unique among the current canned offerings across the state, with only Bosque offering up its Scotia Scotch Ale as a year-round counterpart to the Nexus Scotch Ale. Just about every brewery that cans has put its IPA out there, so King has a point in not offering that one right away with the shelves already packed with so many hop-forward beers.
King said he and his brewing team are still adjusting to adding canning to their list of daily tasks. He had previously worked on a canning line at his job before Nexus, but that was a while ago.
“It’s a slow process,” King said. “We’re only canning, I think our top speed is about four cans per minute, and I used to work on a machine that would do about 25 per minute. It’s a two-head, little cask canner. It’s pretty much the smallest commercial canner. I know Rowley (Farmhouse Ales) uses the same one we have. The Gosling by Wild Goose is a pretty similar canner.”
Owner Ken Carson had spoken in the past about having a small canning line, but it did not come to fruition until the pandemic restrictions forced the issue.
“Ken has talked about canning for years,” King said. “I was a little hesitant because we’re built like a pub and not as a production facility. I still stand by that, but COVID has some weird times, and we’ve got to figure out a way to get into the market. It’s definitely more profitable to sell beers by the pint than it is by the can.”
For now, the cans will only be on sale at the two Nexus taprooms.
“We still have a ways to go to get into the market,” King said. “Right now we’re just at these locations, but we would like to get into some grocery stores and liquor stores, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. We’re testing the waters a little bit. We’d have to redesign a little bit, put a bar code on the labels to accommodate the stores.”
It has been fun to see how our breweries continue to adapt and evolve in the current state of affairs. We are certainly looking forward to taking some of those brews home in a more portable form.
A big thanks to Randy for the interview, a pint of Fest Bier, and four cans (one of each) to take home.
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