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Surly Brewing is trying something new: selling its beer in 12-ounce cans.

The Minneapolis-based beer maker is in the process of installing new equipment that will allow it to pack beer in either the new 12-ounce cans or the 16-ounce cans familiar to its fans.

This $1.1 million investment also means a change in packaging. Surly will release its first-ever 12-pack and will soon ship and sell all of its cans in lightweight cardboard boxes rather than the company’s usual plastic rings.

In the world of craft beer, Surly is a Minnesota favorite and any change to its product offerings is of interest to local beer drinkers.

Xtra-Citra and seasonal brew #Merica will be the first varieties to hit retail shelves in 12-ounce 12-packs by late spring or early summer, followed by its Hell, Surlyfest and the much-beloved Furious brews. All of these varieties also will still be available in 16-ounce four-packs.

The decision to buy new packaging equipment began more than a year ago when Surly was told by the manufacturer of its four-pack rings that it was ending production. This week, Surly began swapping out its Brooklyn Center facility’s equipment to package in chipboard boxes and will start the transition at its Minneapolis-St. Paul facility next week. The 12-ounce equipment will be installed at its Minneapolis brewery in May.

“Chipboard is more interesting, it’s more sustainable overall and it also offers better graphics,” said Will Crosby, Surly’s packaging manager. “It gives a better presentation on the shelves.”

Surly hasn’t made a formal announcement yet about its new 12-ounce can offering, but raised the curtain in a blog post last month. A decade ago, the company’s signature 16-ounce can differentiated it from its craft brew peers that were predominantly packaging in 12-ounce glass bottles.

The company saw an opportunity with the 12-ounce can to squeeze its way into other markets. Surly currently distributes to seven states and recently did a one-time market test in Florida and Arizona through its relationship with liquor megastore Total Wine.

While Surly is well-known in Minnesota, the 12-ounce can “gives us an opportunity in those states where chain stores drive a lot of the sales,” said Holly Manthei, senior marketing manager.

With summer approaching, many consumers also prefer a smaller can for their outdoor activities, said Manthei and Crosby.

As the company grows, the new equipment can easily produce a variety of can and package sizes for future products the brewery may decide to roll out, said Crosby.

And while Surly will soon sell five varieties in 12-ounce 12-packs, the 16-ounce remains king.

“The majority of our beers will still be in a 16-ounce can because that’s kind of our bread and butter,” Crosby said.

The brewery will continue to package and ship its 750-mililiter large format bottles used for specialty and seasonal brews as well.

Surly won’t provide pricing for the new sizing since they do not sell directly to consumers.

“While we don’t dictate the price, distributors and retailers sell our beer,” said Manthei, “We feel the pricing of the new 12-pack reflects a value consumers expect from a larger purchase size.”

Kristen Leigh Painter • 612-673-4767