Fullsteam rolls out first canned beer

Feb. 09, 2014 @ 04:53 PM

It’s a beer that belongs in a can.
Fullsteam Brewery has made its first foray into canned beer sales with its golden-colored, ginger-flavored pale ale “Cackalacky.”
The roll-out of the canned beer is a step toward appealing to a broader market with more consumer-friendly packaging, said brewery founder and CEO Sean Lilly Wilson.
Cans are more portable, he said – they can be taken to the golf course and to the beach – and are more easily packed into a tractor-trailer.
Now the more than 3-year-old brewery has completed the evolution from selling draft beer on-site to re-sealable containers known as “growlers,: to glass bombers, and now on to cans.
“I think it’s an evolution of our business, and a maturation of our business,” Wilson said.
The beer first launched about a year ago in collaboration with the Chapel Hill-based founder of a spiced condiment of the same name. The Cackalacky sauce is a spiced condiment made from sweet potatoes founded by Page Skelton of Chapel Hill.
The idea had started as a rolling conversation about a beer that would not only go well with the lively Cackalacky sauce, Skelton said, but also that is a “great, refreshing experience in its own right.”
“We didn’t want to do anything that was gimmicky like a hot sauce beer or a Cackalacky sauce-flavored beer I should say,” Skelton said. “Ginger – it was a perfect way, I think, in my opinion, to thread the needle.”
They launched it at a food pairing event that included beer, the Cackalacky sauce, and chicken wings, Skelton said. Chris Davis, head brewer at Fullsteam, said the beer and sauce pair well with the same sort of foods
After the first 10-gallon pilot run, they found it was a hit, and ended up brewing it big, and brewing it often.
From behind the warmly lit bar on a recent Wednesday, Wilson poured a taste of the ale into a glass.
“A pale ale, nice balance of malt and hops,” Davis surmised, after taking a drink. “(It has) a nice ginger aroma, flavor, without being … spicy.”
“It’s just enjoyable, straight out of the can,” Wilson added.
Eventually, Wilson said they hope to have their own canning machine. But to start, they used a mobile canning operation out of Virginia, Old Dominion Mobile Canning, to get their foot in the door.
The brewery hired the company to produce an initial 10,000 beer cans. As of Wednesday, Wilson said the cans left numbered in the hundreds.
In addition to selling them at independent stores (which include King’s Red and White and Sam’s Quik Shop locally), the brewery has also gotten federal permission to sell the canned beers out-of-state. The brewery recently did a shipment to Charleston, S.C., he said.
They also plan to make three other beers available in cans as part of a series called “American Progress,” he said, once they have the warehouse and production room.
“We’re reaching a crunch point,” Wilson said. “We’re just shy of the point of really needing a big warehouse to do full-scale production,” he added.