Thanks to a tweak in packaging, you’re about to see Olde Mecklenburg Brewery beers in places you’ve never seen them before: poolside, on the golf course, or anywhere else that glass isn’t allowed.
No, OMB isn’t embracing aluminum packaging like so many other local breweries; don’t hold your breath for canned Copper anytime soon. Instead, the German-inspired brewery is following in the footsteps of many European outfits and beginning to pack some of their beers in plastic bottles.
That’s right: craft beer, in brown plastic bottles. (You’ll still need a bottle opener though; caps are not screw-off.) Their existing bottling line was modified to manage the transition between glass and plastic.
Olde Mecklenburg is the first American craft brewery to utilize these PET plastic bottles, developed by Michigan-based Plastipak.
Why plastic? For starters, it will allow the brewery to bring packaged beer where glass is forbidden, so fans of poolside pilsners should start celebrating. Further details in a provided press release tout plastic bottles staying cooler longer than their canned companions, but a main argument targets the lining used by aluminum cans.
This is where things may get interesting.
“OMB’s main concern with aluminum cans is that their use guarantees a violation of our commitment to the Reinheitsgebot,” says OMB’s founder, John Marrino, speaking of the German beer purity law that states only hops, malt, water, and yeast go in beer. “We simply don’t want to use a package that we know will introduce a contaminant into the beer. It’s a matter of principle.”
The “known contaminant” he’s referring to is Bisphenol A (BPA), which is present in the lining of nearly any metal container, like Coca-Cola cans. The FDA has quite a bit to say about BPA, as evidenced by a Q&A page set up on the subject, with the verdict that such linings used in food storage are generally safe.
OMB is quick to point out the recyclability of the PET plastic bottles, lighter weight, and shatter-proof nature of the material, three hallmarks also common of their aluminum canned competition.
Years ago, craft beer in cans was seen as a novelty, if not a crass joke. Since then, aluminum cans have essentially become the industry standard, largely sending 22-ounce bombers to an early retirement. Whether PET plastic can dethrone its aluminum incumbent is uncertain, but count on seeing these “go anywhere” bottles around town this summer.
Photos: Olde Mecklenburg Brewery