Blue Canoe Brewing Company, perhaps Little Rock’s most ambitious brewery, is the latest in the area to join the canning scene. The small brewery is starting with its flagship 4×4 Pale Ale in a limited canning release for the first month before distributing its cans to select liquor stores in Pulaski County. For brewer and co-owner Patrick Cowan, the announcement is the product of more than a year of planning and hard work.
“We definitely wanted to do cans for a while, it just took a long time to get everything we needed equipment-wise and planning-wise to be able to do it,” said Cowan. “This additional space [at the warehouse] definitely was geared with canning in mind.”
Blue Canoe purchased its own canning line a couple of months ago and installed it at its new location on E. 15th Street. The former industrial center is now home to Blue Canoe’s brewing and canning operation, as well as corporate office and event space. The work converting the space into a working brewery kept Blue Canoe busy beyond the norm since the beginning of 2017.
“Cans and the stage and music, you know, trying to utilize this whole warehouse space, that’s been the dream for quite a while now,” said Cowan. “It took us about a year to turn the warehouse from an industrial place where they built metal doors to a place where you could brew beer and feel comfortable having people come.”
Blue Canoe’s cans join those of Lost Forty and Flyway in terms of their unmistakable, stunning can art. Blue Canoe’s are designed by British artist Liam Ashurst, and Cowan and his team instantly fell in love with the way Ashurst’s simple, natural style presented their product.
“We found some of his stuff on Instagram, we got a hold of him in sort of a Hail Mary message,” said Cowan. “We got an immediate response, we went back and forth for a little while, and he really came through for us.”
The canned 4×4 Pale Ale is available right now at the warehouse and at the taproom on 3rd Street. If you want to get some, you need to act before this weekend. Little Rock’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade is Saturday, and it’s a day that always sees a ton of extra business for Blue Canoe. Cowan believes it will sell out then. Distribution to a select few liquor stores, like 107 Liquor in Sherwood and Legacy Wine and Spirits in Little Rock, will come in April. Cowan and his team hope that the addition of canning represents a chance to get back to what they love to do.
“For more than a year, we had to slow down and make sure we were meeting demand rather than doing something fun,” said Cowan. “Now we’re back to trying new stuff again, trying new small batches and getting back to beer.”