For a couple of months, it's been known that Frederick-based Flying Dog would release its first canned beer this year. Now, we know the date: the first beer, the hoppy light lager Underdog Atlantic, will be in stores in April, confirmed spokeswoman Erin Biles.
The cans will hit Frederick first, with Baltimore as the second targeted market.
The launch comes as the brewer, the state's largest, plans its most ambitious rollout since it purchased its Maryland base in 2006. This year, it will debut 20 new beers.
Biles said they see cans as an additional platform for their beer, one that's now possible thanks to improvements in bottling technology. Years ago, canned beer could still have a slight taste of aluminum.
Now, "the technology has advanced so much that it's just as good as having it in a glass, from flavor profile standpoint," Biles said.
As a light beer with only 4.7 ABV, Underdog was seen as the ideal maiden product. The beer will released simultaneously in 12-ounce cans, 12-ounce beer bottles and on kegs.
The bottles and kegs will be in stores a couple of weeks after bottling begins on April 1, and the cans will start trickling into stores soon after.
The lag is due to changes to the brewery's current bottling line, which will now be diverted into a can filler. To accommodate the canning process, the brewer is adding a second production shift.
As with the rest of its products, the launch's focus is strictly on the Mid-Atlantic, Biles said. It's an area Flying Dog considers its backyard, and where it's seen its biggest growth.
While national sales were up 25 percent last year over 2010, sales in the region increased by 60 percent, according to the company.
The brewery is preparing a gradual roll-out for Underdog, with the beer hitting Frederick and its surrounding areas first, then Baltimore, and then the rest of the state. It should be widely available by the summer, Biles said.
The brewer does not have a benchmark for what they'd consider a successful launch.
"We're easing our way into each market. It's a matter of our ability to build up our inventory," Biles said. She does not know how many accounts will carry the cans yet. "Our main goal isn't from a numbers stand-point."
But already, they're planning a second canned line, its popular Snake Dog IPA. It will start getting packaged in early summer.
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