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Packaging: A Look at Digital Can Printing for Small Breweries

While the tech is still young, the digital printing of cans is growing in capacity and becoming more accessible—and it can be done quickly, in batches as small as a half-pallet.

John M. Verive Apr 22, 2024 - 10 min read

Packaging: A Look at Digital Can Printing for Small Breweries Primary Image

Photo: Courtesy Revolution Brewing

On a recent visit to an old favorite beer shop in Los Angeles, I found that the coolers had been reorganized to better emphasize single-can offerings. There they were: dozens of unique SKUs, all mashed together, with little obvious organization. Smoothie IPAs with pastel labels sat chilling next to pastry stouts in dark cans with metallic accents. A parade of pilsners, Old World and New, wore throwback cans designed to evoke German imports or American nostalgia. Stylish hop-centric designs adorned the DDH hazies and West Coasties.

Confronted with this cacophony of color, I felt a bit overwhelmed. Between new-to-me producers and the ever-shifting brands from old stalwarts, I was lost in the sea of logos, typefaces, and can designs—from the slick and minimal to the cartoony and clever. The wall of cans was like visual noise that made me want to seek the cool, quiet green of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale—and if I felt daunted by the choices, I couldn’t imagine what the average drinker must feel when contemplating the array of options competing for their attention and their beer money.

If there was any unifying attribute among all those cans, it was this: About two-thirds of them featured sticker labels, so that there were stripes of bare aluminum above and below the label.

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