A fairly new development in the craft beer industry is the packaging of finely crafted brews in cans, something that would have been unthinkable in the previous century. Why is that? Because old guys like me remember a day when the only beer found in cans was the macro-produced yellow lagers that resemble water more than the flavorful brews we have to select from in abundance today. Even older guys may remember canned beer having a metallic taste, which was eliminated in the 1970s with advances in technology that resulted in a better lining inside the cans.
So why can instead of bottle? There are lots of reasons, including economics, convenience and the environment. Below are just a few.
- Being exposed to oxygen adversely affects the flavor of beer. The superior technological design of cans provides a better seal than glass, offering the best oxygen protection possible. Think of a can as a mini keg.
- Light is another main enemy of beer and exposure to light negatively affects its flavor. Cans completely shield beer from light.
- The inner surface of cans is coated with a water-based poly that does not interact with the beer and prevents it from touching the metal.
- Cans go almost anywhere and places glass can’t, such as the pool, sporting events, the beach and wildlife preserves.
- Greener footprint for the environment—aluminum is more recyclable than glass and weighs less, resulting in less energy use during transport.
- Cans are more economical: a 12 oz. glass bottle costs a brewer approximately 12 cents, compared to a 12 oz. can for about 9.2 cents; cans take up less space, which translates to lower shipping costs—60 bottle cases to a pallet, compared to 100 can cases to a pallet; and canning equipment is becoming better and more affordable.
What led to the overall acceptance of can packaging were two occurrences. One had to do with the age of the majority of craft beer drinkers, which currently includes those in their 20s, 30s and 40s. These younger folk definitely don’t have recollection of the metallic flavor of the pre-1970s canned beer and to a lesser extent don’t necessarily associate canned beer with the watery swill of the mega-brews.
Another reason was how major players in the craft world have stepped up to place their flagship beers in aluminum, namely Guinness, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Anchor and New Belgium. One of the pioneers of craft canning was Oskar Blues, which began doing so in 2002 when nearly no one else was, and also in later years 21st Amendment, but certainly the craft beer giants joining in led to a greatly increased acceptance. Now many more craft breweries are canning, such as Abita, Ballast Point, Brooklyn Brewing, Firestone Walker, Magic Hat, Maui Brewing, Pizza Port, Shipyard and Uinta; the list goes on and on and soon it will be harder to find breweries that don’t can than those who do. Plus, the advent of mobile canning operations makes it possible for smaller breweries not ready to commit to an expenditure for a canning line to branch out from their tasting rooms to get their brews out into outside retail accounts.
There’s even a beer festival consisting of nothing but craft beer packaged in cans. Held yearly in Reno since 2008, CANFEST pours 100-120 international and US beers covering a wide range of styles. This year’s rendition will be held at the Peppermill Hotel & Casino in downtown Reno on Aug. 29 from 6-11 p.m. Tickets are available at the Peppermill, Craft Wine & Beer and at www.canfest.com.
Bob Barnes is editorial director of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional, regional correspondent for Celebrator Beer News and writes the Top 10 Beer lists for Gayot.com. He welcomes your inquiries and can be reached via e-mailat firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.