JACKSON TWP.  Recognized more for companionship at backyard barbecues and college frat parties, or for simply seeing how many can be crushed against ones forehead before reaching  unconsciousness, the poor beer can has suffered a much maligned reputation over the years.

But Royal Docks Brewing Company owner John Bikis hopes to remedy that in a big way, as his company launches the first canned beer brewing operation in Stark County history.

"I was at a collector’s event – so many collect beer memorabilia – and I quickly found out Canton breweries only did bottles," Bikis said.  "And there has been this stigma attached to canned beer, but it is actually an advantage."

From the fact that less light is able to reach beer in a can, thereby naturally prolonging its shelf life; glass is pretty breakable if dropped from the height of the average persons relaxed arm; it travels better than bottled beer; and it offers far more options for creative labeling, Bikis said he is not surprised at all by the comeback of the can. He is also grateful to be on the front lines of that return to prominence in Stark County.

"We’ve been working on it for about the past six months – the biggest thing about going into cans is consistency," Bikis said. "And then there is everything from the artwork, to approval from the state, UPC codes. And what (varieties) also has something to do with it – the darker the beer, the longer the shelf life, for example."

Royal Docks is offering 6-pack cans in three beers, Tanglefoot IPA, Yardarm IPA, and Pendragon – a Welsh rarewit that took home best beer in the most recent Canton Craft Beer Invitational. Not so incidentally, Royal Docks won best brewery at that same event.

So far, the reaction has been encouraging, Bikis said.

"We had an event here on Thursday (May 4) that was well attended and we sold a lot of special edition six-packs," he said. "And we were at the Cleveland Tequila Fest – a lot of people didn’t know about Royal Docks but they were very excited that we were going to be in all the Giant Eagles."

At the same time, the company launches its canned beer line, with Cincinnati-based Heidelberg Distributing, which will put a wide array of Royal Docks beers – not just the canned varieties – on store shelves across Ohio, including Giant Eagle, Buehler’s, Heinen’s, and Fishers Foods locations.

Royal Docks will host a launch event for the new canned beer varieties at 6 p.m. May 11 at the Fishers Foods 5215 Fulton Drive NW location.

"We just had our largest delivery of beer ever," Bikis said of the new distribution deal. "We delivered more to Heidelberg in one shipment that we did our whole first year in business. At this point, the big thing is what differentiates our six-packs; what is going to make (the average craft beer drinker) buy a Royal Docks product instead of Great Lakes or whatever."

Long-term, Bikis said Royal Docks is focused on both continued growth and fostering the neighborhood pub atmosphere that has built its business to this point.

"Our biggest thing is the production facility that we hope to have opened by the end of the year," he said. "But we are still hosting 100 to 150 events at the tap room, so to that extent, we want to continue – hopefully opening more locations in the Cleveland and Columbus area. That would be the plan."