Brick Brewing plans to invest $3.5 million in its Kitchener brewery to upgrade its canning line and expand brewing capacity.

The company said the project will see the brewery get a new can filler and pasteurizer and it's expected it will reduce the facility's natural gas and water usage as well as liquid waste from the brewing process.

It will double its canning capacity to 400,000 hectolitres. That's the equivalent of 16 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The project is set to be completed in May with the upgraded canning line operating at full capacity by the end of June, Brick's chief operating officer Russell Tabata said.

He noted they don't expect any disruptions in terms of getting beer to consumers.

George Croft, the company's president and CEO, said the upgrade will improve the brewery's competitiveness and will also help them serve customers who have contracts to brew and can at the facility.

Shift to canned beer

Croft said the volume of canned beer in Canada has grown from 65 per cent in 2016 to 70 per cent in 2017. In Ontario, he said cans represented 57 per cent of the beer brewed in 2017.

"That's a big shift and we have seen that over time," he said.

Brick Brewing's canned business in 2012 produced about 100,000 hectolitres — 1.2 million cases, said Croft. In 2017, it has gone up to about 2.4 million cases.

He said the shift to canning for the craft industry has to do with consumer convenience, where canned beer is the primary packaging for retail. A younger audience for craft beer also grew up primarily drinking from cans.

"I think it's reflective of consumer demand and I think brewers are recognizing that consumers have a preference for cans," he said. "Certainly we have and that leads to the announcement that we made today."