Sun King Brewery joins the beer can revolution 

click to enlarge Word-of-mouth has built Sun King's customer base which supports its flagship brews Sunlight Cream Ale and Osiris Pale Ale. - MARK LEE
  • Word-of-mouth has built Sun King's customer base which supports its flagship brews Sunlight Cream Ale and Osiris Pale Ale.
  • Mark Lee

It's not only show business where timing and talent converge for "making it." Sun King Brewing Company positioned itself from the start to be part of the forward momentum for canned craft brewed beer. Dave Colt and Clay Robinson scoped out the situation before they moved from being head and assistant brewers at The Ram in Downtown Indianapolis to found Sun King.

The impetus came with craft brewers partnering with the "green movement" and the reality materialized in 2001 with Canada-based Cask Brewing Systems developing new microcanning equipment. Colorado-based Oskar Blues, in 2002 was the first U.S craft brewery to hand-can. By Jan. 24, 2010, the 75th anniversary of American canned beer, reportedly 75 craft breweries in the U.S. and Canada were canning their beers, led in volume by New Belgium.

About the time Sun King was ordering its hand-canning equipment from Cask Brewing and its cans from Muncie, IN Ball Corporation, the prestigious Bon Appetit magazine featured an article, "The Beer Can Revolution," with a telling admission from "beer maaven" Matthew Lenning: "I was completely preconditioned to think that canned beer equaled bad beer. Tasting is believing, however."

But it's more than media hype that explains why "cans were literally flying out the door" on April 2, 2010, with Sun King's release of their flagship Sunlight Cream Ale and Osiris Pale Ale. Timing and a very smart business plan positioned Sun King to go -- and succeed -- where Indiana's craft canning leader, Warbird, could not. In 2004 Warbird was ahead of the curve. [Warbird closed in Fall 2009.]

Sun King built a customer base with positive word-of-mouth up-swing sales for eight months before offering their two best-selling brews in cans. Because Robinson and Clay had solidified friendships with people in the food and beverage industry over many years and had developed a reputation as consistently good brewers, they could sign up locations to offer their product on tap even before they made their first batch. When package stores recognized Sun King had a following, they gave shelf space to 16-ounce 4-packs.

Timing again played into successful greater Indianapolis entry. Cans are allowed into Indianapolis' sports arenas, bottles are not. Environmentally- and sports-friendly makes an attractive sales pitch. Yet, to keep selling, Sun King has had to prove itself as a quality operation. Friendship lasts only as long as customer patronage.

"For a brewery to be successful, its beer has to be consistently good and consistently available," asserts Bob Mack of World Class Beverages.

Package stores know Sun King will deliver to satisfy broad-based customer demand.

"We love making beer and sharing it," says Robinson. "We're glad people like what we like."

"Osiris Pale Ale is an assertive American ale and is not meant for the timid," explains Dave Colt, whose penchant for hops has been undercover. "The blending of three choice American hops with a strong malt backbone makes this a very drinkable beer at 5.6% alcohol by volume (ABV).

"Sunlight Cream ale is our most approachable beer and is a great introduction to the world of craft beer," adds Colt. "Cream ale is one of the earliest styles of American beer but was virtually wiped out by American lager brewers. Our cream ale is an all malt beer delicately balanced with American hops."

click to enlarge MARK LEE

To view a google map of where you can find Sun King go to www.sunkingbrewing.com/On_Tap.html or go to www.sunkingbrewing.com/Beers.html.

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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Bio:
Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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