Beer: Don't be afraid of the can

Many craft breweries are changing the minds of consumers about canned beer

RALEIGH, NC, August 1, 2012 - In the past, canned beer had served as the symbol of the blue collar beer drinker’s container – that Old Milwaukee or Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboy sweating condensation by the fire or river. They’re portable and easy bring to concerts and other events without having to worry about security coming after you for glass containers.

Many have long claimed that beer in a can compared to a glass bottle affects the taste – most notably coming from the Boston Beer Company’s (Sam Adams) founder and CEO Jim Koch. He maintains that there’s nothing actually wrong with the process, but that the taste does become compromised.

I’ve never bought into how there is a supposed “metallic” taste to a canned beer, or maybe my twenty-three year old palate just isn’t learned enough yet. If you’ve observed that beer has been sitting in a can, then yes, your presuppositions are going to take hold of you.

I hate to break it to the anti-metal crusaders: Beer doesn’t touch the metal. Cans are lined with a spray by the manufacturers which protects against metallic contamination. While this may raise some eyebrows in the environmental world, efforts are being conducted to a create a BPA-free lining, and there already are some for food cans. This is a difficult process to reach, however.

Though the aluminum taboo still stands in the minds of many consumers, many craft breweries are willing to take their chance with the move, and the reasons are plentiful. The advantages end up benefiting both the brewery and consumer. If you are anti-can right now, at least take some of the following into consideration.

On the consumer’s side, the battle has long been stretched against “skunked” beer in glass bottles. It’s not very often you see beer in clear or green bottles anymore, and for those who still commit the beer crime, I can only assume two things – 1. They don’t listen, or 2. They put put marketable packaging ahead of quality. Example? How about the green-bottled beer that comes from Holland that is featured in the handlebar mustache commercials?

Even though most breweries now have their beer in brown bottles, which is the most noble of the glass effort, the beer still stands at a risk of getting light-struck. While the color of the bottle plays part, even more so is how it is stored. Some breweries have gone on to put their beer in a six-pack holder with a higher cover percentage, thus protecting the bottle further.

But really, the can is the only way the beer is going to stay protected from both light and oxygen exposure for longer periods of time. In the case of more complex craft beers, you are encouraged to drink from a glass, but you’re getting the beer in the freshest form. The longer a beer in a bottle stays stored in on a shelf, it’s just not going to be the same. Unless you’re going into a pitch-black store that offers night vision goggles to make the purchase, you’re out of luck.

Also, as the guys at KegWorks make clear, the environmental advantages of canning also create more of a attraction towards purchase. They are easier to recycle than glass (in fact, aluminum is the widest-recycled material out there). Liquids in cans also get colder quicker than glass, which in turn utilizes less energy to get to the point that you want it.

While the breweries are happy to provide consumers with a truly fresh product in cans, they stand to benefit quite a bit as well. Cans are lighter than glass, which in turn makes it easier to transport. Of one of the many perks that can make a business blush, a cheaper shipping cost certainly stays in the top percentile. It’s better branding for breweries as well, since cans mean a lower carbon footprint.

Breweries such as Oskar Blues has only put their beer in cans since they started. Their Dale’s Pale Ale and Old Chub Scottish Style Ale are probably their two most recognized brands, and they don’t seem to be making any changes anytime soon. You can learn more about the perspective of Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechi’s in an article on their site, where he and others echo the many reasons that breweries are switching to cans.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo

Other breweries, such as San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery has proved even more complex styles are permitted in a can. I was a little weary of trying their Monk’s Blood, a Belgian dark ale, out of a can. With its richness and vanilla/cinnamon complexion, it has becomes one of my go-to dark ales.

Of course, there is also Chico, CA’s Sierra Nevada, who started canning their Torpedo Extra IPA in 16oz four packs this year, as well as their Pale Ale in twelve ounce cans. New Belgium Brewing Company out of Fort Collins, Colorado have also gotten more attention for their Fat Tire Amber Ale in both 12 and 16oz packages, as well as their Ranger IPA.

The taboo is quickly fading, and if you’re still stuck in anti-can land, it may be time to move out. As the final months of summer have arrived, give the craft can a chance on your next hike, camping trip or event – as long as you recycle.

Cheers.

Mike Lamardo is happy to be a contributor about craft beer and the culture to the Washington Times Communities. By day, he is a writer for entertainment, technology and music industry blogs. You can find some of his further writing on sites like Indie Media Mag, ReactrMag, Home Security Team, and others. If you’re in a Raleigh, meet up with Mike for a pint somewhere.


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Michael Lamardo

Mike Lamardo is a beer writer based out of Raleigh, North Carolina. During the day, Mike works as a writer and Internet marketer for Direct SAT TV. He is also the sole writer for Craft Beer Chat.

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